What is Hogmanay?

Hogmanay is the word used to describe the very distinctive  Scottish celebration of New Years's Eve. This includes the singing of a setting of the Robert Burns poem Auld Lang Syne while linking arms - a tradition has spread across the world. 

Other famous customs include 'first-footing' - the welcoming the first visitor to the house after midnight. First footer are encouraged to carry a lump of coal and gifts of whisky and shortbread. Luck-bringing tall dark strangers only, please. Blondes need not apply.

There are a number of not entirely convincing theories as to the origin of the word Hogmanay:

  • Hoggo-nott was a Scandinavian word for the shortest day - which would be fine if Hogmanay was celebrated on 21st December
  • The Flemish phrase hoog min dag means "great love day". A nice idea but not always apparent in the fiery eyes of dedicated revelers.
  • The Gaelic for “new morning” is “oge maiden”.
  •  Homme est n√© is French for "Man is born". Fine for Jacobites, again unlikely to have inspired 'great love' in the forefathers of the Glasgow Orange Lodge.