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.
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: http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/Ashton-Lane-Hogmanay-Street-Party-tickets/artist/2053021
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.
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! 🙂