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STONEHAVEN FIREBALL AND HOGMANAY

WHAT: STONEHAVEN FIREBALL AND HOGMANAY
WHERE: HIGH STREET, STONEHAVEN, ABERDEENSHIRE
WHEN: 31ST DECEMBER 2019
COST: FREE

With fire and fireworks on the agenda for this Scottish celebration, it may be easy to think that they have mixed the dates up with bonfire night – this is not the case and this event shares with the rest of the UK the unique way that the town of Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire welcomes in the New Year.

Crowds begin to gather, lining the kerbsides of the High Street in preparation for watching the evening’s festivities unfold at around 10pm. Some hardier people brave the cold from 9:30 to get a perfect viewing spot. At 11pm the evening entertainment begins with pipe bands and drummers building up the crowd. Even though the event is free to attend, it is advised to get there early to grab a spot, as once the street has reached full capacity it will be closed off.

Moments before the old Town House bell chimes out at midnight, a lone piper will take his place, before the bustling crowds. As soon as the bells begin to ring, the High Street is lit in the orange glow as though the street is on fire as the fireballs are lit and the parade begins with the piper leading the way playing “Scotland the Brave”.

Whirling balls of flames fill the street as the swingers emerge from every avenue, making their way through the town centre, mesmerising the audience lining the pavements all the way down to the harbour. This event is said to help speed the old year on its way and welcome the new year in an ancient style with a spectacular and flammable performance.

After the parade, the fireballs if still burning are thrown into the harbour and the burnt-out fireballs are then retrieved the next day on New Year’s Day and normally cleaned with the handles saved and used for the following year.

The origin of this event is unknown and there are many theories and ancient tales as to why it all began. Documentary evidence shows its foundations link to a local 19th-century fisherman’s ritual making it around 110 years old. Some say the flames are to welcome back the sun or ward off the evil eye and bring good luck to the many fishing fleets in the town. Whereas, a pre-Christian theory is that the fireballs purify the world by consuming evil and warding off witches and evil spirits and the fact that the timing of the event coincides with the Winter Solstice (a pagan festival) supports this theory somewhat.

It also transpires that in the dark ages, a shooting star appeared above what is now Stonehaven and the following year, the nearby farms had bumper crops. The seers of the tribe then attributed this prosperity to the coming of the shooting star and the fireballs event began.

The ancient fireballs ceremony at the Scottish village of Stonehaven is 16 miles south from Aberdeen. It is one of the most unique Hogmanay festivals in Scotland, where on the stroke of midnight the high street is lit up as around 50 to 60 local fireball swingers make their way through the town. If you are staying in the area to get yourself some Scottish hospitality this Hogmanay, get along and see first hand one of the oldest events in the World.

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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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FIREWORKS FOR HOGMANAY 2018

Annually, the City of Edinburgh holds a huge firework display over the stunning setting of Edinburgh Castle which coincides with the one in London.

Around Scotland, there are several full-on firework displays taking place for Hogmanay – here are a few of them:

ABERFELDY

This is one of the street parties with live music, lots of food, a licensed bar, and a stunning firework display.  The event takes place in the centre of the Square in Aberfeldy in the stunning Perthshire Highlands from 8pm onwards.  There will be plenty to see and do so just go along and whilst the event is completely free, donations are gratefully accepted.

INVERNESS

Red Hot Highland fling – this event will take place in the Northern Meeting Park Arena in Inverness on New Year’s Eve from around 8pm and is free but donations are gratefully accepted.  Hosted by comedian Craig Hill, the event is listed as one of the top ten Hogmanay events in Scotland.  NO ALCOHOL PERMITTED unless bought on site.  This is a fantastic display which starts at 8pm and continues until the wee small hours.  The fireworks truly are a spectacle as they burst over Inverness Cathedral at midnight.

Entertainment is brought to you by local musicians The Elephant Sessions (traditional Scottish music), Scooty and the Skyhooks (soul music) and Skerryvore (a mix of folk, traditional Scottish, rock and Americana).

STIRLING HOGMANAY

This event caters to both families and adults alike.  There are two shows on New Years Eve – the first is for families and as such includes some quieter fireworks AT 9.15PM and then the big shebang is at midnight when the sky will be full of beautiful effects over the stunning Stirling Castle and the National Wallace Institute, which also celebrates is 150th anniversary in 2019 so this will be bigger and better than last year.

There is entertainment and competition from Capital FM, live music, food concessions and you can even bring along your own alcohol.  The only stipulation is that you cannot bring glass into the venue.

There will be an onsite DJ to get the crowd fired up ready for the fireworks – DJ Fat (his name is Albanian and means Luck!).  The cost is £10 each and a £1 booking fee.  According to everyone who attended last year, it is worth every penny.

STONEHAVEN FIREBALLS CEREMONY

This is Stonehaven’s unique way of welcoming in the New Year.  This event attracts visitors from across the country and beyond to witness first hand the swinging ‘Fireballs’. These are wire mesh cages which are packed with cloth, newspapers and coal briquettes and then the cage is secured with wire and then a handle is affixed to enable the ‘swingers’ to do their thing.  The parade starts at the stroke of Midnight on the town clock and usually includes around 40 men and women who swing their fireballs around their heads before making their way down to Stonehaven Harbour where they swing the balls into the harbour at around 12.25am when the fireworks are launched from the road above the Harbour, indicating the end of the festivities.  However, the people of Stonehaven are known to be a happy crowd and usually keep the party going till the wee small hours and beyond.

So, if you are looking to welcome in the New Year in traditional Scottish fashion, get up there and see the spectacle for yourself.

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