Hogmanay 2020: What is it and how is it celebrated?

New Year’s Eve is a night of celebration for millions of people all over the world but it is of particular importance for those who live in Scotland, where it is called Hogmanay.

Festivities take place all over Scotland, including major cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, with some celebrations lasting for three days.

Scottish people also have two days of holiday following Hogmanay, unlike the rest of the UK, which just has just one on New Year’s Day.

Of course in 2020, celebrations will not be the same. Scots have already been told “no ifs, no buts” there should be no celebration around New Year and people should not expect the rules to be relaxed at all. 

But what is Hogmanay and why is it normally celebrated?

What is Hogmanay?

An annual event that takes place in Scotland to see in the New Year, Hogmanay is observed over the course of several days, the pinnacle being New Year’s Eve.

The festivities often continue on 1 and 2 January, both of which are bank holidays in Scotland.

Although its exact origins are unclear, some believe that the celebration may have been introduced to Scotland by the Vikings, who invaded Scotland in the 8th and 9th Centuries.  

The Norse raiders would celebrate the Winter Solstice with lively parties, a tradition that’s continued throughout the years for Scots celebrating the New Year.

Where does the word Hogmanay come from?

Defined as “the 31 December”, “New Year’s Eve” or “the last day of the year” in the Dictionary of the Scots Language, the etymology of the word is a topic of debate.  

Some believe the word originated in France, while others believing that it has Anglo-Saxon origins.

“The name could come from the Anglo-Saxon ‘haleg monath’ meaning holy month,” Dr Donna Heddle, director of the Institute for Northern Studies at the University of the Highlands and Islands, told the BBC

“But the most likely source seems to be French. In Normandy presents given at Hogmanay were ‘hoguignetes’.”

It’s believed that the word “Hogmanay” became more widespread after Mary Queen of Scots returned to her home country after visiting France in 1561.

How is it normally celebrated?

In 2020 New Year’s Eve celebrations have been cancelled. 

Festivities typically begin on 30 December with a traditional torchlight procession that passes through the Scottish capital of Edinburgh.

With thousands of spectators looking on, dancers and musicians make their way down the city’s Royal Mile, starting from Edinburgh Castle before a huge ticketed street party then takes place. 

Similar festivities will also take place across the rest of Scotland, with cities including Glasgow and Aberdeen holding parties.

After midnight, Scots take part in a good luck tradition called “first-footing”, which involves being the first person to enter the home of a friend or neighbour.

The person entering the home of another is expected to bring them gifts such as whisky, shortbread or black bun, before being presented with food and drink by the host.

One Hogmanay tradition that’s spread across the world is the synchronised singing of Auld Lang Syne to see in the New Year.

The song derives from a poem written by Scottish poet Robert Burns. It is custom to link arms with the people on either side of you when singing the song, the title of which can be translated as meaning “old long since”.

Are celebrations taking place this year?

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many Hogmanay celebrations have been cancelled. 

This year, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay will, for the first time in its history, move to an entirely online celebration with a series of spectacular events to be watched from home. The free online series of shows promise never seen before, visually-spectacular moments every evening from 28 December through to the 1 January. 

The stay-at-home event series will be fret watch and streamed online so Hogmanay fans all over the world can tune in from the comfort and safety of their homes. 

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