Christmas and Hogmanay in Glasgow

It’s nearly Christmas, but as I won’t be updating the blog until the new term, I thought I’d share some interesting facts about and ideas for what is perhaps Glasgow’s favourite celebration of the year – Hogmanay! Hogmanay is our word for New Year’s Eve, but the origin of it is quite mysterious – some historians think it comes from the French phrase ‘l’homme est né’ (‘the man (Jesus) is born’), but there are also theories that it comes from Greek, Manx (from the Isle of Man) or Norse language.


After the Protestant reformation of Scotland in the 17th century, Christmas was not widely celebrated as the Church of Scotland deemed it too frivolous, and associated with the Catholic Church. As a result, Hogmanay became the more important celebration, and it was only really in the early-mid 20th century that businesses began to close for Christmas day.

Though Christmas is now celebrated widely in Scotland, Hogmanay is still our biggest and most ‘Scottish’ celebration! We have lots of traditions for bringing in the new year.


First Footing

The ‘first-foot’ is the first person to enter your home after midnight on the 31st of December. It is said that, for good luck, the first-foot should be a tall, dark-haired male who brings traditional gifts of coal, shortbread, salt and a black bun (fruit cake) with him. In return, he must be given a wee ‘dram’ of whisky. Nobody is completely sure of the origin of this tradition, but some people think it relates to the Viking invasion of Scotland many centuries ago: as most Vikings were blond, it was probably not a good sign if a tall, blond, angry man knocked on your door at night! These days, first-footing mainly involves going to your neighbour’s house to say happy new year and have a drink – your hair colour, gender and height are not considered too important any more.

Welcoming the New Year

Traditionally, it was considered good luck to have repaid any debts, cleaned your house and cleared the ashes from your fireplace to welcome a fresh beginning for another year. These days most of us don’t actually own fireplaces, but lots of people see the new year as a chance for a new beginning. You’ll probably see lots of people jogging in the park in early January, as many people decide it’s time to get fit!

Food and drink

A traditional Hogmanay dinner usually includes haggis, served with neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes), though steak pie is also a favourite dish for many people. Many people enjoy the classic Scottish biscuit shortbread at Hogmanay and, of course, it’s traditional to drink some whisky.

Auld Lang Syne

Our most famous poet, Robert (or Rabbie) Burns, wrote a poem in 1888 and set it to the tune of a traditional Scottish folk song and it would become his most famous work. Every year, people all over Scotland and throughout the English speaking world sing Burns’ song to celebrate the new year. Its lyrics celebrate friendship and memories of times past (Auld Lang Syne means ‘old times’). In the original Scots, the first verse is:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

and never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

and auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my jo,

for auld lang syne,

we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,

for auld lang syne.

This translates, roughly, as:

Should old friendship be forgotten?

And never thought of?

Should old friendship be forgotten,

And the old times?

For the old times, my dear

For the old times,

We’ll still take a cup of kindness (a drink shared with friends)

For the old times.

At Hogmanay, we Scots love to sing Auld Lang Syne while joining hands and standing in a circle, as this video (from a ceilidh in Edinburgh) shows:

We also like to sing Auld Lang Syne at the end of ceilidhs (Scottish dance parties) to celebrate the good times we have spent with our friends.

Going out in Glasgow

Cities all over Scotland have their own Hogmanay celebrations, and there are always lots of events in Glasgow. Here are just a few:

Ashton Lane Street Party

Celebrate the New Year in the beautifully lit Ashton Lane, where there will be live music, DJs and probably lots of merry singing and dancing. Tickets are £25 and must be bought in advance from this website:

Hogmanay Ceilidh, St Andrew’s in the Square

I know lots of you are very good ceilidh dancers but even if you’re a beginner it’s easy to learn! This traditional Scottish dance party will be held at the beautiful St Andrew’s in the Square, a restored church built in the 18th century. Tickets are £37.50 each, which includes haggis and a wee ‘dram’ of whisky, and must be bought from Café Source at St Andrew’s in the Square. The venue is located in St Andrew’s Square, near the Merchant City and is a 10 minute walk from Argyle Street train station.

Masquerade Ball

Walkabout bar in the City Centre (next to Cineworld) will be hosting a FREE Masquerade Ball – dress up in your finest party clothes and wear one of Walkabout’s free masks to bring some mystery and party spirit to the new year.

Merchant Square Hogmanay Party

The beautiful Merchant Square, an old covered marketplace with original cobbled paving, will open its doors for a Hogmanay Party with live music. Tickets are £25 each and can be bought from any of the bars or cafés in Merchant Square. Merchant Square is around 10 minutes’ walk from Buchanan Street.

These are just a few suggestions – every pub and club in Glasgow will be celebrating, with many open until midnight for the countdown to the New Year. Public transport can be extremely busy on Hogmanay and taxis are in high demand – it’s a good idea to go somewhere within walking distance of your home, or arrange to stay with friends who live near to where you will be celebrating.

As always, please do not walk home alone and do not get into any taxis unless they are officially marked: private cabs have signs on the side doors which say ‘private hires only’ and cabs which you hail in the street are black with an orange ‘TAXI’ sign on top.

If big celebrations aren’t your thing, then lots of people do choose to celebrate at home with loved ones and a delicious dinner – as long as you are surrounded by people you care about, and stay up to hear the bells ringing in the new year at midnight, you will be observing the most important traditions of Hogmanay! Happy 2015 to all our friends around the world! 🙂

Jenny x


More Christmas fun in Glasgow

We have already taken a look at some of the exciting Christmas events happening in Glasgow this winter but, if you can believe it, there are more to come! Check out some of this weekend’s Christmas activities…

Ruthven Lane Christmas Bazaar

Behind Byres Road, there are some small, cobbled lanes filled with interesting shops. Until 24th December, there will be a fun Christmas market hidden down Ruthven Lane (across the road from Hillhead subway station), where you can drink hot chocolate and mulled wine, and buy beautiful gifts.

Where: Ruthven Lane
When 10am-5pm, 2nd December – 24th December.

Cost: FREE
Christmas Fun Day at Linn Park Equestrian Centre

Linn Park, in the south side of Glasgow, is one of our city’s biggest and most beautiful parks. On Christmas Fun Day, you can visit the par’s Equestrian Centre for a pony ride, visit Santa’s grotto, see the fun dog show and treat yourself to some mulled wine and a mice pie!
Where: Linn Park Equestrian Centre, Linn Park, South Glasgow
When: 10am-2pm, Saturday 6th December.
Getting there: Linn Park is 20 minutes’ walk from Muirend train station (which you can travel to from Glasgow Central station) or you can take the number 4 bus direct from the City Centre or University Avenue. Remember to tell the driver where you are going!

Cost: FREE, but donations for the centre are welcomed.
Scotland Street Santa School

If you have children, they might like to visit the Santa School at the beautiful Scotland Street School Museum, which is a very interesting place to visit itself. They will learn how to make their own Santa beard and some yummy reindeer food!
Where: Scotland Street School Museum, 225 Scotland Street, South Glasgow.
When: 11am-12pm, 1pm-2pm and 3pm-4pm, every Saturday and Sunday between 6th and 21st December.
Getting there: Shields Road subway station is very close to the museum.

Cost: FREE
Riverside Museum Christmas Fair

Come to one of Glasgow’s newest and most exciting museums to try out some old fashioned fairground rides for free! There will also be a craft market, selling handmade goods, and Father Christmas will be in residence aboard the Tall Ship Glenlee, a beautiful boat which is docked beside the museum.
Where: Riverside Museum, 100 Pointhouse Place
When: 11am-4pm, Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th December
Getting there: The museum is around 15 minutes’ walk from Partick subway station.


Reindeer at Holmwood House

Holmwood House is a stunning mansion built by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson, one of Glasgow’s most famous architects, in 1857. From 6th-14th December, a herd of Ayrshire reindeer (just like the ones which belong to Father Christmas!) will be in Holmwood House’s lovely gardens. Adults and children are welcome to pet and feed the reindeer and, of course, to take lots of photos with them. There will also be a Santa’s Grotto, where children will be given small presents.

Where: Holmwood House, 61-63 Netherlee Road, Cathcart, South Glasgow.

When: 11am-4pm, Saturday 6th December – Sunday 7th December.
Getting there: Muirend train station is 15 minutes’ walk from Holmwood House. You can take a train from Glasgow Central station.

Cost: £5 for adults and £3 for children.

I hope you have a great weekend!

🙂 Jenny x

Winter in Glasgow

Winter in Glasgow
By now, you are all aware that winter has come to Glasgow – it’s getting colder and the nights are longer, but there are also lots of fun things to do!

Style Mile Christmas Carnival, Sunday 23rd November, St Enoch Square and City Centre, FREE event.
If you are in the City Centre on Sunday this weekend, look out for the Style Mile Christmas Carnival! There will be lots of street performers and events for children and adults. The fun will begin at 12pm outside the St Enoch Centre with a parade starting at 2pm, which will continue along Buchanan Street and up to Sauchiehall Street, lasting until 4pm.

Blessing of the Crib, Wednesday 3rd December, 6pm, George Square, FREE event
In the UK, there is a special Christmas tradition of blessing a model of the baby Jesus and the crib in which he lay. On Wednesday 3rd December from 6pm in George Square, the Reverend Whitley of Glasgow Cathedral will bless the model of the baby Jesus and there will be a special concert of Christmas songs, sung by children from Saint Anne’s Primary School. This is a Christian tradition, but people of all faiths are welcome to join this celebration of Christmas and family.

Santa Dash, Sunday 7th December, 9:30am, George Square, FREE event (the prices on the website refer to those who wish to run in the race, not those who come to watch)
Every year in Glasgow, there is a special marathon race at Christmas. People of all ages compete in the race to raise money for charity, but they must all be dressed as Father Christmas! The amazing Santa Dash will begin in George Square at 9:30am, but you will see them running throughout the City Centre for most of the day.

Irn-Bru Carnival, 19th December-11th January, SECC Glasgow, see website for opening times
Named after Scotland’s favourite drink, the Irn Bru Carnival is Europe’s biggest indoor funfair. There are theme park rides for all ages. Entry to the Carnival is £13, which pays for 10 vouchers. You will need one voucher for each ride, so this means your entry ticket will buy you 10 rides. There will also be fast food stalls and a fortune teller.
Getting there: the quickest way is to take the train to Exhibition Centre train station, which is very close to the SECC.

Mrs Claus at Pollok House, Pollok Country Park, 2060 Pollokshaws Road, South Glasgow. Adult tickets: £6.50, child tickets: £6.
One of the most beautiful places in Glasgow to visit in winter is Pollok House, a mansion house built for Glasgow’s wealthy Maxwell family in 1752 and preserved in the grand style of the 1930s. The house and gardens are decorated in traditional Christmas style and children can visit Mrs Claus, the wife of Father Christmas, who will give each of them a little present! You can also enjoy Christmas lunch in the Edwardian kitchen café. The beautiful gardens are great for exploring and watching the sun set.
Getting there: You can take a train from Glasgow Central station to Pollokshaws West train station, which is next to the entrance of Pollok country Park. It is a short walk through the park to Pollok House.

Reindeer at Holmwood House, 61-63 Netherlee Road, Cathcart, South Glasgow. Adult tickets: £5, child tickets: £3.
Holmwood House is a stunning mansion built by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson, one of Glasgow’s most famous architects, in 1857. From 6th-14th December, a herd of Ayrshire reindeer (just like the ones which belong to Father Christmas!) will be in Holmwood House’s lovely gardens. Adults and children are welcome to pet and feed the reindeer and, of course, to take lots of photos with them. There will also be a Santa’s Grotto, where children will be given small presents.
Getting there: Muirend train station is 15 minutes’ walk from Holmwood House. You can take a train from Glasgow Central station.

Glasgow on Ice, George Square. Adult tickets: £8-12, child tickets: £6-9 (depending on time).
You will all know about Glasgow on Ice, as we are going there for our next trip! Every year an ice skating rink is brought to George Square, so people of all ages can skate under the beautiful Christmas lights. There are stalls where you can buy hot snacks and drinks and some fairground rides too. The ice rink will be in place from 27th November until 31st December.

The Glasgow winter may be cold, but it can also be lots of fun! 🙂
Jenny x

Happy Easter!

Childs Easter Card 12

Some of you might be a bit confused about how the Scots (and many other people) celebrate Easter. Why chocolate eggs? Why rabbits?

For Christians, Easter is the most important feast day because it celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Many Christian people will go to church on Easter Sunday.

We eat chocolate eggs at Easter because the egg symbolises new life and the coming of Spring (many baby animals are born in Spring) but also because, as you might guess, we LOVE chocolate 😉

One Scottish Easter tradition is painting hard boiled eggs in bright colours and rolling them down a hill. You might see some children (and fun-loving adults) doing this in your local park. The tradition of painting eggs is an ancient one – the early Christians of Mesopotamia painted eggs red to symbolise the blood of Jesus Christ. In Christianity, the egg also symbolises the stone which was rolled away from the tomb of Jesus, which revealed that he had risen from the dead.
You might also see children taking part in an Easter Egg hunt – this is when adults hide chocolate eggs around a park or garden and children hunt for them and then eat them.
You may also wonder why rabbits are associated with Easter: as lots of baby rabbits are born around this time, the rabbit became a popular symbol for celebrating Easter, especially for children. In the UK, children often believe in the Easter Bunny, who is kind of like Father Christmas except he comes at Easter, brings chocolate and is a rabbit 🙂


If you go to Tollcross Park in the East End of Glasgow (near Shettleston train station) on Easter Saturday or Sunday, you can see new baby rabbits, chicks and other animals: Or you might like to arrange your own Easter Egg hunt!