While New Year’s Eve is celebrated around the world, the Scots have a long rich heritage associated with this event – and have their own name for it, Hogmanay. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay New Years Celebration is recognised globally as the home of Hogmanay.

Again this year Edinburgh will see thousands of revelers take to the streets to say goodbye to 2012 with spectacular mix of live music stages, giant screens and the incredible Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Fireworks, which sees 4.5 tonnes of pyrotechnics light up the Edinburgh sky and signal the arrival of 2013.

There are many theories about the derivation of the word “Hogmanay”. The Scandinavian word for the feast preceding Yule was “Hoggo-nott” while the Flemish words (many have come into Scots) “hoog min dag” means “great love day”. Hogmanay could also be traced back to the Anglo-Saxon, Haleg monath, Holy Month, or the Gaelic, oge maidne, new morning. But the most likely source seems to be the French. “Homme est ne” or “Man is born” while in France the last day of the year when gifts were exchanged was “aguillaneuf” while in Normandy presents given at that time were “hoguignetes”. Take your pick!
It may not be widely known but Christmas was not celebrated as a festival and virtually banned in Scotland for around 400 years, from the end of the 17th century to the 1950s. The reason for this has its roots in the Protestant Reformation when the Kirk portrayed Christmas as a Popish or Catholic feast and therefore had to be banned. Many Scots had to work over Christmas and their winter solstice holiday was therefore at New Year when family and friends gathered for a party and exchange presents, especially for the children, which came to be called hogmanay.

Hogmanay brings a number of traditions to Edinburgh’s celebrations:

Torchlight Procession (31 December)

You’ll think you’ve stumbled upon some ancient pagan ritual. Imagine 20,000 people brandishing flaming torches and processing slowly through the city centre before climbing Calton Hill for a firework display and son et lumière. The atmosphere is heightened by the sound of massed pipes and drums and the presence of Vikings from Shetland’s Up Helly Aa fire festival. In truth, there’s nothing pagan about it, but it’s certainly the kind of one-off event you won’t find anywhere else.

Candlelit Concert (31 December)

Also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh, St Giles’ Cathedral dominates the central part of the High Street. Primarily gothic in style, it has fragments dating as far back as the 12th century. Having served as a cathedral since the 17th century, it is steeped in history and tradition, making it an especially atmospheric venue for the annual Candlelit Concert.

The Keilidh (31 December)

The ceilidh is a great Scottish folk tradition that persists to this day, a chance for a whole community to join in with a night of music, song and dance. Here at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, the tradition has been reinvented as the Keilidh and it’s the largest outdoor event of its kind in the UK. Taking place on the Mound Precinct from 9pm and extending beyond the midnight bells, it is an evening of non-stop hooley fun on a purpose-built outdoor dance floor.

Auld Lang Syne (31 December)

The Hogmanay custom of singing “Auld Lang Syne” has become common in many countries. “Auld Lang Syne” is a traditional poem reinterpreted by Robert Burns, which was later set to music. It is now common for this to be sung in a circle of linked arms that are crossed over one another as the clock strikes midnight for New Year’s Day, although in Scotland the traditional practice is to cross arms only for the last verse.

The volume of people that head to Edinburgh each year has become so great that some years back the local council had to make the huge street party a ticket only event. If you are headed to Edinburgh make sure you have a street pass or if doing an inclusive tour that the street party pass is included.

If you’re planning to join us at Hogmanay’s celebration in Edinburgh, get in touch with the Thistle Team at The King James to book your accommodation!


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