How Scotland Celebrates New Year

How Scotland Celebrates New Year

We hope that you all had a fantastic Christmas, and that you’re thoroughly enjoying the party season! In a few hours time we’ll be welcoming 2015, and here in Scotland Hogmanay is celebrated in a myriad of strange and spectacular ways!

Hogmanay fireworks in Edinburgh
Hogmanay fireworks in Edinburgh (Photo credit Robbie Shade)

Hogmanay, in case you’re confused, is the Scots word for December 31st, and has become synonymous with New Year celebrations across the country. The origins of the word are unclear, but the festivities themselves have roots in the Norse celebrations of the winter solstice, the Gaelic Samhain, and the Viking Yule festival. In Edinburgh, the city welcomes the New Year with a public party in the centre of the new town, a event which has grown each year into a panoply of live music, fireworks and other fabulous festivities.

In other parts of the country, however, Hogmanay is celebrated in slightly more… unusual ways! The town of Stonehaven puts on an incredible show on December 31st as townsmen form a procession and march through the streets wielding fireballs – balls of chicken wire and cloth that are set alight. Those who are brave enough swing burning balls through the air until they reach the sea and thrown them in, whilst the rest of the town watches from a safe distance! Legend has it that this slightly unorthodox tradition was originally designed to ward off witches, but in truth there isn’t any documented evidence of the festival before 1908. Whatever its reasons, it sure is spectacular to watch!

The Stonehaven Fireballs
The Stonehaven Fireballs (Photo credit Chris Street)

In the town of Burghead, the people have a similarly unique and peculiar tradition which celebrates New Year not once, but twice! While others in Britain protested at the loss of 10 days which resulted from the transition between the Julian calendar and the Gregorian calendar in the 1750s, the citizens of Burghead took advantage of it. The town now celebrates New Year on December 31st, and then again on January 11th (any excuse for another party!). Whilst Hogmanay is observed more conventionally, January 11th (or sometimes the 10th) is commemorated with the “burning of the Clavie”. A Clavie is a half-cask filled with wood, which is mounted on a pole a set alight. It’s then paraded through the streets by the Clavie Crew, who carry it up to the top of Dorrie hill, handing out smouldering parts of the Clavie to the townspeople to wish them luck for the new year. Well, why not?


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