Hogmanay in Edinburgh – Celebrating New Years Eve Scottish Style!

There is a slight chance, if all of the planets align properly and the standby travel angels are looking over us, that we might get to go somewhere really cool for New Year’s Eve this year.  Hogmanay in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Fireworks display hogmanay in edinburgh

Fireworks display

The planets did not align properly last New Year’s Eve (and I think the standby travel angels were off getting drunk) because none of my carefully laid plans for New Years Eve last year worked out the way that I had hoped.  I am due for some cooperation from the universe this year, I think.

Sooo, where are we thinking of heading to welcome the new year?   SCOTLAND!



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Who knows better than the Scots about how to throw a rockin’ New Years Eve party?  They did invent whiskey, you know, so one could assume that they know how to throw a kickin’ party.

The Scottish New Years Eve celebrations are so incredible, they have a special name.  Hogmanay is an ancient Scottish tradition with Viking origins.

Hogmanay Origins and Traditions:

The holiday of Hogmanay is closely related to many of the other ancient fire festivals celebrated around the world to recognize the turning of the seasons and the return of the sun after the Winter Solstice.

If you were a Viking, celebrating the start of a new year and the end of a long, cold, dark winter would have been a very important thing.

Hogmanay tradition dictates that the first person who sets foot in your house after the new year start should be a dark haired male bearing salt, shortbread, coal, black bun (a type of fruit cake) and whiskey.   This tradition is called “First Footing”.

The torchlight procession is  an ancient Pagan custom closely associated with the turning of a new year or new season, and it is still practiced in Edinburgh and in many other towns in Scotland on New Years Eve.

Saining is also an ancient Hogmanay custom.  It involves members of the household drinking water from a special river then sprinkling the water around their house.  Once the water has been sprinkled, the house is sealed and fumigated with juniper smoke, which is thought to rid the house of evil spirits and bad energy.

The windows and doors are then flung open to allow cold, clean air to come rushing in and the members of the household are given a wee dram of whiskey from the lady of the house before their New Years Day breakfast.

Modern Hogmanay in Edinburgh

The Hogmanay celebration in Edinburgh officially begins with a torchlight procession down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.  Once the procession reaches Calton Hill the opening fireworks are lit. This is the signal to the world that the world’s greatest New Years Eve Party is ready to start.  Sorry, Las Vegas.

hogmanay in edinburgh The candlelight procession down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh on Hogmanay

The candlelight procession down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh on Hogmanay

The main event of Hogmanay in Edinburgh is the street party, which fills up the entire length of the Princes Street Gardens, with the castle looming above.

Your 15 pound entry ticket (not including booking fee) gives you access to the street party area, live entertainment and DJ’s, outdoor bars, strolling street performers which all culminate at midnight with an incredible fireworks display over Edinburgh Castle.  Check out this link for more information about Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party.

Maybe the best news for a budget traveler like me?  As long as it is in plastic bottles or cans, you are welcome to bring your own alcohol in!  Ahhhh, I can already picture it, welcoming the new year with a wee dram of whiskey…ok, maybe a few wee drams.

hogmanay in edinburgh The fireworks and an overview of the massive street party in Edinburgh on Hogmanay.

The fireworks and an overview of the massive street party in Edinburgh on Hogmanay.

The Hogmanay in Edinburgh celebration actually takes place over three days and there are a number of other events going on, including a candlelit concert in St. Giles Cathedral, the Keilidh (a traditional music and dancing event which takes place at the same time as the street party, a nice option for those who are looking for a little more culture out of their New Year’s Eve celebrations), an the Concert in the Gardens, which is a separate event from the bands playing at the street party.

Tickets to the Keilidh or the Concert in the Gardens also grant you access to the  Street Party, but once you leave either, you will not be readmitted.

Just think, you and 80,000 new friends welcoming the new year together at the base of Edinburgh Castle singing one of the most famous Scottish songs, Auld Lang Syne.

Once the party is over, free night buses are provided to get you to your rest in the wee hours of the morning.

If you are feeling particularly adventurous on January 1st (or think you still might be drunk and not feeling any pain the next day) you can register to participate in an event called the Looney Dook, jumping into the river Forth to bring a fresh start to your year and to raise money for various charities.

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Hogmanay in Edinburgh – Celebrating New Years Eve Scottish Style!

2 Responses

  1. Edinburgh is such an awesome city – this festival looks fantastic. I’ve only ever gone there for Fringe.

    Andrea May 31, 2012 at 3:14 pm #
    • Fringe is awesome. We were there unintentionally during that week in August a few years back and had a blast!

      Shanna Schultz May 31, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

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