Hogmanay Traditions to Celebrate the New Year

It’s that time of year again! After another long year, it’s nearly time to celebrate Hogmanay. Out with the old and in with the new. We hope you’re ready for it – but in case you’re not, here are some Hogmanay traditions to get you in the spirit!

But first, what does Hogmanay mean?

What Is Hogmanay?

Hogmanay is the Scots word for the last day of the year (December 31st) and all the celebrations that come with it to bring in the new year. It goes back to the days of the Vikings and celebrations of the winter solstice.

Hogmanay Traditions

Here are some Scottish Hogmanay traditions to get you in the spirit and excited for the new year …

Redding the house

So you can start the new year fresh with a clean house, ‘redding the house’ doesn’t mean painting it red. It means cleaning it! In the 1800s it was considered bad luck to start the new year with a dirty house.

First footing

As New Year’s Day arrives, the first person to enter the Scottish household (the ‘first foot’) is thought to bring good fortune for the year ahead. For many years, Scottish households welcomed strangers into their house to earn good luck, so the first footer should traditionally be someone who was not in the house at the stroke of midnight. But fear not about COVID-19. It is a common tradition to have someone simply leave the house just before midnight so they can knock on the door afterwards.

The first foot usually comes bearing gifts for the household. A coin, bread, salt, a lump of coal, and whisky, to represent prosperity, food, flavour, warmth and good cheer for the year ahead. It is also traditional that the first foot be a dark-haired man to ensure good luck.

Baking a black bun

A black bun is a traditional Scottish cake for celebrating the new year, a fruity dessert of shortcrust pastry, raisins, currants, brandy, and spices. Scottish families would often prepare a black bun in early December and let it mature throughout the month ready for the Hogmanay feast.

Lighting the fireplace

Lighting a fire has always been important in Hogmanay tradition, representing the light of the sun to ward off evil spirits. If you have a working fireplace, don’t forget to clean it out, start a new fire by midnight, and gather round with all the family.

Haggis, neeps and tatties

Of course, what better way to celebrate Hogmanay than with our national dish. A nice plate of haggis, neeps and tatties for dinner will do perfect for bringing in the new year.

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? We all know this one! Of course, how could we start the new year without joining hands and singing Robert Burns’ ‘Auld Lang Syne’ immediately after midnight?


Whatever you choose to do, we hope you have a delightful Hogmanay and a Happy New Year! And, if you want to celebrate in style, don’t forget to check out Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations!

What will the new year bring for you? A nice holiday in a luxury guest house? A wedding in a beautiful Scottish castle? Take a look at our services to see how we can make your year better than the last!