No embellishments needed! A tried and true staple of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, the Street Party is out of this world. Each year, the streets of Scotland’s capital say so-long to traffic and hello to thousands of party-goers from all corners of the globe. There’s dancing galore (yes, in the street), multiple stages hosting top-class music acts, performers of all kinds, food, drink and lots of fireworks.
Along with the famous Street Party, Edinburgh hosts the Concert In The Gardens every Hogmanay. Each year, different acts blow away the crowds in the Princes St Gardens with what can only be described as an epic rave. Once more, there is something for everyone, from big-name acts and folk stars, to rock stars and traditional Scottish singers. Either way, the music reverberating across Scotland during Hogmanay never fails to sing to the soul.
There’s dancing, and then there’s ceilidh dancing. To those unaccustomed with the Scottish country dancing ways, it may seem a tad intimidating. And yet, there is nothing like letting go of all inhibitions in a wild Strip The Willow with all your mates. From casual local village ceilidhs (expect a wild, fun time) and formal affairs in plush hotels, to the many ceilidhs held in castles, you can’t say you’ve lived until you’ve experienced a Scottish Ceilidh with all the bells and whistles, especially on Hogmanay. It would be rude not to!
And experiencing the part when Scots run in and out of the circle at full speed. Seriously, it is the best part. Things may get a little rowdy but nothing screams solidarity among strangers and friends than linking arms and embracing this tradition. Although the sobering words of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ resonate throughout the world at midnight every New Year’s Eve, there’s something extra special (and humbling) by singing it in the land in which it was created. Yes, ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is one of Rabbie Burns’ many masterpieces! For the record, you only cross arms during the last verse.
As one of the many cultural idiosyncrasies of Scotland, the aim of the first footing game is to literally be the ‘first foot’ across the house threshold of your nearest and dearest starting anytime after midnight on Hogmanay. Traditionally speaking, people preferred dark-haired men to arrive first, as it brought good luck for the coming year. Fair-haired people weren’t as encouraged after Viking invasion times. Obviously, this is not the case today, as all are welcome. It’s customary to bring a first-footing gift (seriously, it would be very rude and bad luck not to). Popular gifts include shortbread, black buns, whisky to toast and coal for warmth. Nowadays, Scots are known to improvise — any gift goes, really!
Forget the New Year’s Eve kiss and head to Stonehaven for the most unforgettable moment. Every Hogmanay, a parade of men in kilts and women march through the main street of this fishing village the moment the clocks strike midnight — swinging great big fire balls around their heads. This age-old tradition stems from a 19th-century fisherman’s festival; however, its roots predate Christianity. Thankfully for onlookers, these mighty fireballs are contained in cages for safety purposes and are stuffed with things like old jeans, newspapers and cardboard. It’s believed that the ceremony wards off evil spirts for the new year.
Talk about kicking off Hogmanay in style. Imagine 17,000 flaming torches and around 20,000 people illuminating Edinburgh’s city centre in procession. A breathtaking moment, the Torchlight Procession draws inspiration from Shetland’s famous Up Helly Aa and other Scottish fire festivals. Although a relatively new NYE tradition to Scotland’s capital, this family-friendly procession marks the start of the Hogmanay festivities to come.
You can have the fanciest party that ever did exist but ultimately, it’s the people that make or break an occasion. Whether stranger, acquaintance, family or friend, all those visiting Scotland for Hogmanay are guaranteed a welcomed dose of Scottish hospitality. The Scots have this way of making you feel like you’ve known them forever. Expect a never-ending supply of friendly banter, bottomless drams, hilarity and acceptance wherever you go.