Category Archives: Scotland

HOGMANAY EVENTS SCOTLAND

Scotland has always been synonymous with Hogmanay and there are few Towns and Cities not holding a New Year event of some kind.

The word Hogmanay (prounced hog mah nay) is Scottish for the end of the year and the origins of it are thought to be a mixture of Gaelic and Norman French.

It wasn’t until 1958 that Christmas Day was designated as a public holiday in Scotland and as such, they continued to celebrate the pagan Yuletide including of course the Winter Solstice and Hogmanay.

No New Years Eve event would be complete without a rendition of Auld Lang Syne which today is sung widely in most of the British speaking world and not just for the new year but as a closing song for scouting jamborees and graduation ceremonies. The song itself was originally a poem written by Robert Burns, the 18th century Scottish poet and was set to a tune from a traditional folk song. Auld Lang Syne is recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most sung piece in English.

New Year is said to be a time to welcome strangers and friends alike with warmth and love and it allows us to rid ourselves of past differences and move on into a new year.

As a little girl, with great-grandparents who were Scottish, my nanny always followed the ‘old traditions’ as she would describe. My lovely dad used to drive over to my nanny’s just after midnight to ‘first foot’ at her house. He was the quintessential man for the job as a strapping 6 feet plus in height with dark brown eyes and black hair.  He used to take a list of things with him: a coin – for good luck, salt – flavour, wood/coal – warmth, whiskey (a miniature) for good cheer (and of course to toast the arrival of the New Year) and an evergreen branch (we were OK with that as mum was a florist) for long life.

Check out some of the events taking place around Scotland this NYE:

EDINBURGH

Without a doubt one of the best known of all the Hogmanay Events in Scotland with a full list of top-class entertainment, food and refreshments, a Christmas Market, and of course the second biggest firework display in the UK. Whilst the fireworks can be clearly seen from across the City, Hogmanay HQ is the place to be but with tickets at £205.00 – £225.00 it is quite pricey. Prosecco and Canapes are served on arrival at the venue with a full hot and cold buffet for dinner, live music, entertainment, private bars and of course premium seating to watch the spectacular fireworks over Edinburgh Castle at midnight.

STIRLING

Stirling Castle is one of the largest and best-known castles across Scotland.  It was the Royal residence to innumerable Kings and Queens over the years as well as being a powerful stronghold, thanks mainly to its position at the top of a hill surrounded by steep cliffs on three of the sides making it almost impenetrable.  Most of the castle was built between 1490 – 1600 but there have been some alterations added to the structure as late as the 18th century.

Several Kings and Queens were also crowned at Stirling including Mary Queen of Scots who also had fireworks at her wedding to Henry Stuart – Lord Darnley, and her son, the soon to be infamous King James I of England (James VI of Scotland) who went on to be the King who they tried to kill in the Gunpowder Plot.

ABERDEEN

This stunning City is Scotland’s third highest in terms of population and once again has a full entertainment package on offer for Hogmanay. The evening will include an ABBA tribute band, street party, bagpipes and fireworks will be launched from His Majesty’s Theatre rooftop in spectacular fashion. There is also the Stonehaven Fireballs ceremony which has been taking place for hundreds of years but records of it only go back to the early part of the twentieth century. Todays ‘swingers’ number around 45 or so and it brings in around 1200 spectators annually. Street entertainment, the lilting sound of the bagpipes and drummers fill the air as the parade of fireball swingers make their way from the Town Hall to the Harbourside before launching their balls into the water. The event is concluded with a firework display at around 12.30pm but rest assured whilst the official merriment is at an end, the people of Stonehaven will keep the party going till the small hours so if you are looking for a close knit affair with that Scottish flavour, why not find somewhere to stay nearby.

INVERNESS – RED HOT HIGHLAND FLING

Celebrations take place at Northern Meeting park with a concert, fireworks and a huge amount of entertainment with award-winning acts (Scottish of course) which will bring something fresh to the event.

MUSSLEBURGH – EAST LOTHIAN

This family-friendly celebration includes traditional Scottish and contemporary arts, live music, singers and storytelling, pantomime, puppeteers and food. They also hold a charming lantern parade which includes hundreds of illuminated lanterns being paraded accompanied by local pipes and drums from 6.30pm before a majestic firework display from around 7.30pm free at the Fisherrow Links.

So, for a traditional and friendly Scottish Hogmanay celebration, get yourself up there and share in some of the magic.

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FLAMING BALLS I HEAR YOU SAY

It is a little-known fact that Christmas was not celebrated in Scotland for around 400 years from the latter end of the 16th Century (after the reign of James 1st England – son of Mary Queen of Scots) right the way through to the middle of the 20th century.

The head of the Church of Scotland regarded the festive celebrations as ‘Popish’ or Catholic in origin and banned any Christmas events in support. He thought that all celebrations were firmly against Christian teachings and as such, if it was not in scripture, it was not down to the people to create their own meanings so there were to be absolutely no celebrations, hymns or carol singing in the Bible. This extreme behaviour did not actually stop the celebrations by those who followed the pagan tradition of using fire to clear out evil spirits.

The Pagan festival of Hogmanay, however, has its roots deep in the history of a wide number of areas around Northern England and Scotland with special pagan festivals being held in Flamborough in North Yorkshire, Biggar in Strathclyde, Allendale in Northumberland and Comrie in Tayside as well as the biggest in the UK in Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire. All the festivals have events which include fires, tar barrel carrying and of course, those flaming balls.

Up in Stonehaven, the procession and celebrations for New Year have garnered interest from around the world and today, the parade brings in visitors of around 10,000 to witness firsthand the spectacle of the swinging fireballs. The balls are wire mesh cages tightly packed with old cloth, newspapers and coal briquets and the cage is then tied with wire before a handle is added to enable it to be swung around the head of the carrier. They are soaked in paraffin to ensure that they stay alight in the bitter winds off the Scottish Harbourside. Crowds gather at 10.30 for the beginning of the parade to take full advantage of the street entertainment which builds up to the Town Hall clock chiming midnight when 40 men and women take to the streets with their flaming balls aloft and they continue to swing them overhead throughout the parade to the waterfront when they are swung (like when they release the hammer in athletics) and released into the harbour. At 12.25 in the morning, once all the cages are extinguished, the fireworks are launched high above the road over the Stonehaven harbour can be seen from miles around.

The event in Allendale is a little different as they carry aloft barrels of Tar (yes, on top of their heads – utter barmpots I know!). This is only carried out by the 45 ‘Hereditary’ Barrel carriers so you have to be related to one of the previous ‘guiser’s’ (from the word disguise).

Whilst the world and its wife agree that ‘fire’ events are Pagan in origin, there are definitely Viking influences as one of the oldest ‘first footing’ rules is that the man who comes to the door has to be tall and dark whereas the majority of the Viking raiders would have been blonde obviously the bringer of troubles.

There is one thing for certain, however, we choose to drive out the bad spirits of the last year in readiness for the good one ahead, they almost all involve fire, fireworks and whisky so long may we continue.

If you are in need of fireworks for a small family celebration or a full display for a New year cocktail party, we have a huge range of beautiful pyrotechnics on offer to bring it in in style.

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