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Hogmanay

Hogmanay is the Scottish new year celebration. Coinciding with New Year's Eve, it started during ancient pagan times, and may have stemmed from Norse and Gaelic observances—its roots may be in the Winter Solstice and Yule celebrations marked by the Norse, and it may have brought in customs of Samhain, a Gaelic celebration. The origin of the holiday's name is disputed, but it possibly comes from a Gaelic, Norse, or French root. There are many similar spellings and pronunciations of it.

On Hogmanay, all-night celebrations take place in Scotland's large cities, such as Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Glasgow, as well as in smaller cities like Stirling and Inverness. Edinburgh, Scotland's capital, is known for having the largest celebration. The holiday is also observed in rural areas. There are a number of customs that take place on the day. Fireworks and processions with torches can be found in cities, while bonfires are common in rural areas. Giving gifts, cleaning the house, clearing debts, and visiting friends and neighbors are common activities of the day.

The most widespread custom is first footing. During this ritual, it is hoped that a dark-haired male will be the first to set foot over the threshold of one's home in the new year and that he will have with him items such as shortbread, coal, or whiskey. This is thought to bring good luck for the coming year. After a guest or guests arrive, they are given food and drink. Another custom that occurs after the chiming of midnight is the singing of "Auld Lang Syne," which is a poem by Scottish poet Robert Burns set to music—a song popular with New Year's celebrations all around the world. Hogmanay tends to continue well into January 1, and sometimes into January 2, which is a Scottish bank holiday.

How to Observe Hogmanay

The best way to celebrate the day is to go to Scotland and take part in the festivities there. Attend Edinburgh's Hogmanay, check out the fireball swinging in Stonehaven, take part in the Red Hot Highland Fling in Inverness, warm up at the Biggar Bonfire, or attend one of the other celebrations throughout the country. If you can't make it to Scotland, practice some of the customs associated with the day, such as having a bonfire, cleaning your house, giving gifts, first footing, and singing "Auld Lang Syne."

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