In the bleak mid-winter, it helps to have festivities to look forward to. Here at Walkers Shortbread, we absolutely love Christmas – but Hogmanay is also a highlight of the season. Whether you celebrate the last night of the year with the bright lights of the fireworks, visiting friends to welcome the new year, or hosting a party at home, we can help you with some tips to make the most of the final night of the year.
Scottish Hogmanay Traditions
Outside the UK, many people have never heard of Hogmanay, this essentially Scottish celebration. The history of the word Hogmanay itself is vague. Most sources claim that it either stems from French or Norse words, or a version of Gaelic. However, New Year celebrations and mid-winter feasts were common in both Norse and Gaelic cultures, and traditionally Hogmanay was a bigger celebration than Christmas in Scotland. Many customs and traditions are associated with the celebrations of Hogmanay, and several are still common today. First-footing is a particularly treasured practice, in which Scottish people visit their neighbours with a gift to bring prosperity and joy to the household. Whisky, salt and a rich fruit cake are all popular, but shortbread as a first-footing gift is the preferred by many. Read more about Scotland’s New Year traditions on our blog.
Today, Hogmanay is celebrated with a blend of tradition and modern customs. Many still go first-footing as soon as the bells have rung, and celebrations with fire, light and explosions in the sky continue the trends of pagan fire festivals and torchlight parades. The Glasgow New Year parties are infamous for their lively singing, dancing, drinking and eating. In Edinburgh, the best venues from where to watch the fireworks are booked up months in advance. If you are hosting a Hogmanay party, consider some of our tips for organising your seasonal festivities to make sure you’re on top of everything.
Watching the fireworks is a highlight for many. Whether you take to the streets and enjoy the sound of revellers and the sight of fireworks exploding above you, or you choose to watch the Hogmanay fireworks on TV from the comfort of your favourite chair, you can make the most of the experience with a little bit of planning. Make sure you’re dressed for the occasion – wrap up warm with this cashmere scarf if you are going outside. Remember to keep a bit of sparkle and style- it is a fancy occasion after all! Classic tartan cufflinks brings a level of sophistication to any outfit – and they also make a great gift. For warmth, a hot drink like mulled wine, hot toddy or maybe an Irish coffee would go well in these stylish tartan thermal mugs. And don’t forget the umbrella! You never know what weather Scottish nights will bring.
If you are staying in, food and drink is of the essence. Make a delicious cheese plate with a selection of Scottish cheese and the Walkers range of oatcakes. Add some chutney, grapes and crudités for a sophisticated and easy party platter. Serving traditional Scottish whisky is expected at a Hogmanay party, and we can recommend pairing the best Speyside whiskies with shortbread. This could even be an excellent first-footing gift! If you feel like organising a whisky tasting as part of your festivities, we have the tips you need on our blog. And for the sweet treats, you can’t go wrong with a traditional rich fruit cake. The Walkers whisky cakes are the ultimate luxury on an occasion like this. If you serve a delicious dessert, you can liven them up with melt-in-the-mouth shortbread thins; just the finish you’ll need after the New Year feast.
Auld Lang Syne
Any celebration of Hogmanay in Scotland includes a heart-warming rendition of Auld Lang Syne, the beautiful poem by the Scottish national bard, Robert Burns. Revellers link arms and sing the now famous words as the clock strikes midnight. Did you know that tradition only dictates that arms are linked at the beginning of the final verse? That’s where old Rabbie Burns tell us to give each other the hand:
It has become more customary to sing the whole song with arms linked – maybe to get a bit more warmth in the cold Scottish night… But here’s to Hogmanay, we hope you’ll celebrate it in style!