Hogmanay and Holiday Celebrations in Scotland

Winter holidays in ScotlandMost of us think of Christmas as an ages old celebration. But not so for the people of Scotland. Christmas was banned there for almost 400 years.

Oliver Cromwell, who ruled the United Kingdom, passed the ban in 1647. After Cromwell, the Presbyterian Church in Scotland continued to discourage Christmas holiday celebrations and people who went against it suffered severe punishments.

Hogmanay New Year Celebration

What the Scots did have going for them was their New Year celebration, called Hogmanay, the largest celebration in Scotland. Even though Christmas is now a recognized holiday, many Scots continue to hold their celebrations on New Year’s Day.

For nearly a week, Scots celebrate the dawn of the new year with street festivals, concerts, parties, and large bonfires. Immediately after midnight and to welcome in the new year, people will stand in a circle, hold hands, and sing “Auld Lang Syne.”

A Hogmanay custom of cleaning house, or “redding the house,” is done on December 31 to rid the house of back luck from the previous year and encourage good luck for the upcoming year. Many Scots will have a fire going in their fireplace – an age-old superstition – to keep elves from coming down the chimney to wreak havoc on the family.

Another Hogmanay custom is “first footing” – literally the first foot to step into a house after midnight. The first person to visit traditionally brings gifts of coal, bread, and money to symbolize warmth, lack of want, and wealth.

Christmas Today in Scotland

Traditional bagpipes of ScotlandIt wasn’t until the late 1950s that Christmas became a recognized holiday for Scotland. Nowadays, Scots celebrate Christmas much like people do in other countries. They begin the Yuletide season around Halloween and continue through Christmas Day. They hang stockings, exchange presents, the children writes letters to Santa, and families gather for a meal on Christmas Day.

A traditional meal may include Scottish shortbread, roasted turkey or venison stew, and one of our favorite dishes, the infamous “haggis and neeps”.

Whether on Hogmanay or Christmas Day, all across Scotland people gather around huge bonfires to dance, sing, and of course, play the traditional Scottish bagpipes.

 Staying Connected

If you find yourself in Scotland during Hogmanay, our Pocket WiFi Hotspot will help you capture the event. With data, you can upload pictures and easily share them on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook – or any of your favorite social media.

To stay in touch with those back home, download our free WiFi Calling App from iTunes or Google Play. You can let everyone know what you’re doing for only two cents a minute or for free if they also have installed the app on their smart phone.

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