It’s Hogmanay time! Even though London was hailed the most popular city-break for New Year’s Eve, if you want a Scottish celebration – Edinburgh is the only place to be! Prepare for 3 days of music, fun, fire and lights – one of the biggest New Year parties in the world!
The etymology of the word Hogmanay is obscure, although there are some hints on its origins. It may come from Norse, Goidelic (Insular Celtic) or French. In the Norse language, the haugmenn or hoghmenn mean the hill people – probably elves or trolls, and the celebrations were supposed to banish them back to the sea. The Goidelic version derives the word from Manx hog-un-naa or hob dy naa, which referred to Hallowe’en, and the French one – to the New Year gift or the celebration itself (aguillanneuf). Some other sources state that it might come from Gaelic og maidne (new morning), Flemish hoog min dag (day of great love) or the Anglo-Saxon haleg monath (holy month). Whatever the origins are, which we may never truly discover, Hogmanay in modern times is a massive celebration that gathers thousands of people and is an unforgettable experience!
The fun begins on December 30th with the Torchlight Procession, starting at George IV Bridge and heading to Waterloo Place and Calton Hill. Last year there were 35 000 participants! The procession ends with a stunning firework show that can be admired from every side of the city – a truly astonishing view (some even say that taking part in the Edinburgh Hogmanay Torchlight Procession is one of the 100 things you have to do before you die!).
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During those days, you may take part in many cultural and artistic events. Famous musicians, often Scots themselves, are often invited to give concerts – during previous celebrations you could listen to, among others, The Proclaimers, Biffy Clyro and Calvin Harris. This year you may dance with Lilly Allen, The Twilight Sad and Young Fathers. Remember that the concerts are not free, so get tickets in advance while they’re still available! If you prefer more contemplative ambiance, there is a Christmas carol concert held in the candlelit St Gile’s Cathedral – this will surely be an unforgettable and beautiful event, especially considering the setting and atmosphere!
When the clock strikes midnight, you’d better know the words of Auld Lang Syne! This has become a tradition not only in Edinburgh or in Scotland, but across the whole of Britain. There is a custom that the people singing form circles and start to dance, so don’t be surprised to see this on the Edinburgh streets this year! At the end, everyone usually cross their hands at the breast, then approach the middle, reestablish the circle and turn around to stand with the face outside the circle while still holding the hands of their neighbors. Auld Lang Syne is quite old, believed to be written (or, at least, written down) by Robert Burns, and the average English speaker probably will need a few of the older Scots words translated to understand what they are singing about! The song is a popular selection for the celebrations marking the ends and new beginnings, and is also popular during funerals, graduations, and of course, the celebrations to commemorate Robert Burns.
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The Scottish traditions are strong among the people of Edinburgh– and the best proof is an annual outdoor New Year ceilidh! If you want to welcome 2015 with traditional Scottish music, dancing and delicious Scottish food, this is the best choice – and as this is a total sell-out each year, again take care to purchase your tickets as soon as possible if you want to participate! This year’s attractions feature Jimi Shandrix Experience, Hugh MacDiarmid’s Haircut and The Smashers.
If you feel a little hungover after over-indulging during the festive period, the best remedy might be the Loony Dook! Dook is a Scottish word meaning to dip or bathe, and this fun event involves taking the plunge into the cold waters of the Firth of Forth. The Loony Dook took place for the first time just 29 years ago, yet it has grown into one of the most well-known and popular New Year celebrations in Scotland. The participants often jump into the cold waters while wearing funny costumes, or raise money for charity via sponsorship, so the Dook attracts many onlookers – if you’re not keen on the idea of taking the plunge yourself, watching others do so might also be fun (but will certainly be less cool, literally and figuratively).
If you don’t find the Loony Dook appealing, there is another great and free event for the New Year – Scot:Lands. This is a journey through Edinburgh’s Old Town, where you’ll find specially prepared concerts, activities and hidden attractions! Taking part is absolutely free, but due to the high number of attendants last year, registration is required so sign up quickly!
Edinburgh has a lot to offer during these special days – no matter if you want to have fun on the streets with loud music or you prefer more traditional and calm events. Whatever your preference, the city as a lot to offer – and a Hogmanay City Break might be your best New Year experience ever!