Hog-man-nee? Hog-man-nay? Doesn’t have the same easy ring as Auld Lang Syne. Everyone knows the song you sing (poorly and loudly) when the clock strikes midnight. Far fewer, though, are familiar with the bigger picture — the history of the Scottish celebration of Hogmanay that takes place on New Year’s Eve.
A tradition in Scotland for centuries, the actual holiday has murky origins. Like many modern festivities, it likely began as a pagan rite. The ancients marked the winter solstice and the passing of the bleakest days of the dark seasons. This relief at living though a difficult time has evolved into a joyful recognition of another year shared together.
Experts can’t even agree on the etymological origins of the word Hogmanay. Celtic tradition suggests that it evolved from og maiden, an Old Gaelic phrase meaning “new morning.” Others suggest it derives from the more modern French word hoguinané, meaning “New Year’s gift.”
Regardless of their origin, Hogmanay traditions across Scotland share a focus on community celebrations, hosting old friends and exchanging surprises. In fact, one of the earliest known references to Hogmanay comes from the 1600s. Scottish writer and lawyer Robert Chambers describes it in his diary as a day spent visiting with friends, trading small gifts and offering toasts to the New Year.
Today, one bit of the history of Hogmanay still survives as the “first-footing” ceremony. Immediately following the stroke of midnight, family and friends travel to see those they love. They bring gifts such as whisky or coal — both symbols of good luck for the coming year — and occasionally torches. The first person to enter a house after midnight, it is said, brings either good or bad luck for the coming year depending on their love for the homeowner and the gifts they bring.
Whatever traditions you and your family celebrate on the New Year’s weekend, we wish you a Happy Hogmanay. Our work at County Argyle is entirely dependent on our loyal friends and customers. We thrive because of your love and support. Thank you for another amazing year, and we are looking forward to an even better 2023!