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Christmas has been and gone but before the celebrations start to wind down, Hogmanay is just about to start.  Hogmanay is the Scottish name for New Years Eve, there are many believed origins for the name ‘Hogmanay’ but the truth behind the name is unclear.  Depending on where you research, some believe the name comes from Nordic or Gaelic history.

To help get your Hogmanay celebrations in full swing, here are a few Scottish Hogmanay traditions.

First footer

On New Year’s Day, the first visitor to your home was known as the first footer.  Originally a Christmas Day tradition, but now it’s one of the main Hogmanay traditions.  Depending on where you research…this person would bring gifts of peat, money, and bread to symbolise warmth, wealth and lack of want.  Or, bring several gifts such as a silver coin, salt, coal, evergreen and whisky.  Ideally the first footer would be a dark-haired male, this will bring good luck for the next year as the gifts symbolise prosperity.  Someone with fair hair and female is considered to bring bad luck.  It is acceptable for the first footer to be a resident of the house but they must not be in the house at the stroke of midnight or after, they must leave before for them to be the first footer.

Redding the house

Before you enter the new year, this Scottish tradition of Redding the house is performed.  Families clean the house from top to bottom as to start the new year clean.  It is believed that starting a new year with an untidy home is bad luck for the year to come.  Sweeping out the ash from the fireplace is very important and some even read the ashes, like reading tea leaves.  The cleaning also extends to paying bills and clearing debts before the stroke of midnight.


Saining is a highland custom of blessing the house and livestock with ‘magic’ water.  The magic water is from ‘a dead and living ford’ and it is sprinkled around the house.  A ‘dead and living ford’ refers to a river ford that is routinely crossed by both the living and the dead.  Water is sprinkled in every room, making sure all beds, and all inhabitants have been covered, then the house is sealed tight.  Juniper branches are set alight and walked from room to room filling the house with purifying smoke.  Once everyone in the house is coughing or choking from the fumes, all windows and doors are opened wide to let the cold fresh air of the new year in.  On completion, all members drink a dram or two of whisky before receiving a New Year’s Day breakfast.


“Auld Lang Syne”

The Hogmanay custom of singing “Auld Lang Syne” has become common in many countries but how it became the New Year’s song is something of a mystery.  “Auld Lang Syne” is a Scots poem written by Robert Burns in 1788. The songs traditional use being to bid farewell to the old year at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Here at the Lovat, we wish you all a Happy New Year.  We hope your new year is filled with luck, love, and laughter.  We look forward to hearing about your new traditions and some of the old Scottish traditions that you keep inspired.

The Lovat Loch Ness, the perfect place to…Enjoy Hogmanay traditions.

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Post by Dan Mitchell

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