If there is one nation famous for celebrating Hogmanay or New Year in great style it is Scotland. We delve into a little history of this great tradition as well as finding out just what is happening around the world to welcome 2019 this year.

From the end of the 17th century to the 1950's Christmas was not really celebrated as a festival in Scotland, regarded as a Catholic celebration and banned by the Protestant Kirk for this reason. As a result in Scotland most people worked over Christmas and took the time off at New Year to gather to party with friends and family, sharing gifts which were known as hogmanays.

History suggests that in the 8th and 9th centuries the Vikings, with their celebrations and of the Winter Solstice and shortest day were the beginning of many of the traditions still followed today. Indeed the famous fireworks and torchlight procession in Edinburgh are reminiscent of Hogmanay pagan celebrations where bonfires were lit, blazing tar barrels were rolled down hills and lit torches were tossed. In the north east of Scotland fire ceremonies still take place and Stonehaven is apparently the most spectacular if you want to experience the warding off of evil spirits.

Hogmanay Vikings

Torches were originally made by wrapping animal hide around sticks and if you head up to the Isle of Lewis today the young men there still make up groups carrying torches, visiting the houses in the village, and a little bit like Hallowe'en, reciting Gaelic rhymes and receiving bannocks (delicious fruit buns you must try when you next visit Scotland) which they put in their sack. The leader is obvious as he wears a sheep skin.

The Torchlight procession in Edinburgh this year celebrates the Scotland's Year of Young People 2018 and culminates in Holyrood Park where 14 wicker sculptures, each representing a region of Scotland and created by our young people, will be set ablaze. There are some incredible ideas and you can see these displayed on the Royal Mile until 29th December.

Edinburgh is the ultimate New Year destination for thousands of revellers every year. The concert in the gardens is headlined by Franz Ferdinand this year and sells out in no time but there are still tickets for the street party and the old town ceilidh. However along with lots of partying, dancing and celebrating there are actually some traditions that we are supposed to follow before we bring in 2019.

Franz Ferdinand

Tradition dictates that we should clean the house and take out the ashes from the fire before 31st December, and all debts should be cleared before "the bells" sound at midnight, with the idea that you start the new year afresh. We all begin New Year with resolutions and the chance to do better, but I like the simplicity of simply tidying up and sorting the bank balance, no need for a diet or fitness plan this year then?

My favourite part of Hogmanay is the singing of For Auld Lang Syne just after midnight and the joining of hands and celebration of friendship which feels good whether you are ceilidh'ing in your tartan with hundreds of others or just at home with a few friends.

Auld Lang Syne

Auld Lang Syne

And for auld lang syne, my jo, For auld lang syne, We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, For auld lang syne, Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And days o' auld lang syne. And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp! And surely I'll be mine! And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, For auld lang syne. We twa hae run about the braes And pu'd the gowans fine; But we've wander'd mony a weary foot Sin auld lang syne. We twa hae paidl'd i' the burn, Frae mornin' sun till dine; But seas between us braid hae roar'd Sin auld lang syne. And there's a hand, my trusty fiere! And gie's a hand o' thine! And we'll tak a right guid willy waught, For auld lang syne.
Translated - Old Long Past

And for old long past, my joy, For old long past, We will take a cup of kindness yet, For old long past, Should old acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot, And days of old long past. And surely you will pay for your pint And surely I will pay for mine! And we will take a cup of kindness yet, For old long past. We two have run about the hillsides And pulled the wild daisies fine; But we have wandered many a weary foot Since old long past. We two have paddled in the stream, From morning sun till noon; But seas between us broad have roared Since old long past. And there is a hand, my trusty friend! And give me a hand of yours! And we will take a right good-will drink, For old long past.

"First footing" is the other great tradition in Scotland and in return for a warm welcome you should arrive on the doorstep with a piece of coal, some shortbread, salt, black bun or whisky.

Some of the other crazy traditions followed in Scotland to celebrate New Year are topped with The Loony Dook where hundreds of Scots don their fancy dress and run into the freezing cold waters of the Firth of Forth to clear their Hogmanay heads. In Kirkwall the have a Ba' Game which is a mass game of football played in the streets, between two teams, the Uppies and the Donnies, which was traditionally decided by which part of the island you come from.


If you are in Australia the partying is on the beach and at midnight everyone makes a huge noise with whistles, rattles, car horns and church bells. No sleeping through the Bells in Oz! South Africa celebrates according to the Georgian calendar on its first date of January 1st and huge parties and festivals are staged. Interestingly according to Afro Tourism "A portion of the general population also celebrates by throwing refrigerator from their balconies and others fire gunshots. In any case, in the present time, these traditions of firing a shot and tossing of fridges have decreased, because these things can present danger to many people." What weird and wonderful New Year's traditions do you and your family observe. We would love to know!


Our Edinburgh shop is open between Christmas and New Year but we do close early on Hogmanay so if you need some last minute tartan to wear for your new year's celebration remember to pop in to Queensferry Street before 3.30pm. And don't forget to share your photos of your celebrations and stories of your traditions with us. Lang may yer lum reek.