The Origins of Hogmanay, lang may yer lum reek!
December 27, 2018 6:11 PM   Subscribe

Until 1599 in Scotland, the New Year began on the 25th of March, which was in line with England. However, on the 17th of December, 1599, King James VI, via an act of his Privy Council, decided that Scotland should come into line with other “well governit commonwealths.” The date for New Year's Day was changed from the 25th of March and imposed as the 1st of January, 1600. With this change came a shift in the celebrations ofHogmanay, which are still big in Scotland, particularly Edinburgh. If you want to bring some Scottish celebrations to your home, here's a collection of practices and traditions. If you want the 5 minute summary, here's a short take, and 5 Scottish Hogmanay traditions that are probably new to you.

I'm telling you about Hogmanay now, with ten days less warning than King James VI provided in 1599, to give you time to prepare your Hogmanay recipes (All Recipes UK and Ireland with a smattering of dishes, BBC Food with a few more, or for a proper long list of Scottish recipes, check out Rampant Scotland's online cookbook).

If you're looking to live vicariously through others, BBC broadcasts a Hogmanay Live Show. You can watch some reruns on YouTube: A wee bit of Hogamany previously.
posted by filthy light thief (11 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I lived there long enough to appreciate that you can't hang with the Scotts all night.
You can try... but at some point it is all gwine ta' get foozy.
posted by twidget at 6:24 PM on December 27, 2018 [5 favorites]

I keep thinking surely the Hogfather must be somewhere in all this, but I don’t see him mentioned.
posted by darkstar at 7:29 PM on December 27, 2018 [5 favorites]

Here you go:
The 32nd of December, or the day before the New Year, is known as Hogswatchnight. The name is a pun on "hogwash", Hogmanay and Watch Night, and possibly on the ancient holiday of Samhain which was traditionally associated with pig-killing, to ensure that there was enough food for the rest of the winter.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:55 PM on December 27, 2018 [5 favorites]

the first Hogmanay I had in Edinburgh I ended up freezing my butt off on Calton Hill just so I can get a good spot for the fireworks (also because as a tropics person I seriously underestimated how waiting out in the cold can be). The next Hogmanay I think I dragged my friend into somewhere warm until the last possible minute.
posted by cendawanita at 9:43 PM on December 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Scotland is hardcore. Two big blow outs on Christmas Day and New Year's Eve aren't enough for them.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:11 AM on December 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

In most of the northern Scottish islands they ignore the Gregorian calendar (introduced to Great Britain in 1752) and continue to celebrate 'old Hogmanay' on 11 January instead. They still use the Gregorian calendar for eveything else so I'm not sure why this one date is treated differently.
posted by Lanark at 2:15 AM on December 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

This is our first Hogmanay in an apartment with a view of the castle. Looking forward to watching the fireworks from home.
posted by kyrademon at 9:57 AM on December 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Hogmanay: Scots Gaelic for "Vomiting on the Pavement."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:45 PM on December 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Last week, I found myself jammed into the corridor of a crazily over-crowded train into Edinburgh. Most passengers endured in silence - waiting to be released from purgatory onto the platform of Waverley. But not one teenager - maybe not the brightest bulb in his class- who was explaining to his pals how much he was looking forward to “mahogany”. On behalf of the rest of us travellers - I’d like to thank him for the laugh.
posted by rongorongo at 1:19 AM on December 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

I had to look up the etymology of the word, which led me through a series of fascinating historical accounts of its use. (I should have just started with the Wikipedia article, because it includes the dozen or so possible origins of the word that I found, and then some more.)

The word Hogmanay may be originally derived from French, Norse, Gaelic, Greek or even Manx expressions. Thus, depending on the etymology you choose, it may have originally meant:

“holy month”

“in this year”

“the point of the new year”

“a new needle”

“a gift given at the new year”

“a children’s cry for such a gift”

“New Year’s Eve”

“the Druidic practice of bestowing a blessed mistletoe at the new year”

“the Druid’s call to come receive said blessed mistletoe”

“a request for a New Year’s gift”

“bring to the beggars”

“a door-to-door collection taken for the poor”

“the man is born”


“I raised the cry”

“a song about Norse hillmen/elves who banished the Trolls to the sea”

I’m especially fond of the last one, as an invocation for troll-banning. :)
posted by darkstar at 9:58 AM on December 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

[This is my 1,600th post -- seeing that I'd hit this mark around the new years, I went looking to see what happened in 1600, and thought this was particularly timely ;) ]
posted by filthy light thief at 7:38 AM on January 25, 2019

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