Updated: Dec 31, 2022
Your Ultimate Guide at bringing a touch of Scottish and Baird Traditions, both old and new to your holidays throughout the year. We will look at both Highland, Lowland, and diasporic traditions and how incorporating elements of these Scottish Traditions, including historic traditions, into your life can help you protect and pass culture and heritage. Today, we look at the greatest of Scottish Holidays - Hogmanay.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?
-Rabbie Burns (Robert Burns),
Auld Lang Syne, 1788
At the end of each year, Scotland hosts one of the most elaborate celebrations in the world. Hogmanay, the Scottish celebration of the end of the year, is considered the best place to welcome the new year. In fact, Edinburgh consistently ranks the highest in New Year's celebration. What makes Hogmanay even more interesting is that its origins are rooted in centuries of tradition.
Participating in, and incorporating, Scottish traditions into your Hogmanay or New Year's celebrations are one way to preserve family culture and traditions and pass them to the next generation. Traditions and heritage provide a method of grounding in this digital age and allow us to maintain emotional wellbeing. Share these traditions this year to feel a bit more Scottish and keep your heritage and tradition alive.
Clan Baird Traditions: What is Hogmanay? Is it Viking? Is it Celtic? Well....it's Scottish!
Hogmanay is the Scots word for New Year’s Eve and the celebration of the new year. The fact there is even a separate word for New Year’s Eve tell you the importance this day holds for people in Scotland. Why is New Year’s Eve is called Hogmanay? Well, even the etymology of the word Hogmanay is up for debate.
Many modern day researchers, including the Oxford English Dictionary claim a French etymology for the word. The claim claim that the word entered middle Scots from French from the term “hoguinané” which stems from the term “aguillanneuf”. [ii]
This wasn't always the case. In 1693, a Greek origin " ἁγία μήνη (hagíā mḗnē)” or holy month was suggested by the author of the Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence. [i] (Fun fact, this actually translates as Holy Moon not holy month and probably is not the origin.) Future researchers would
A Gaelic origin has also been proposed from the line of a New Year's poem that says “Thog mi an eigh..” (Eng. I raised the cry) and sounds like Hogmanay, phonetically. However, this doesn’t take into account that New Year’s Eve in Gaelic is Oidhche an Bliadhna Uire or Oidhche Challain.
Finally, some researchers have rejected a Gaelic or French origin and point to a Norse or Anglo-Saxon origin. They claim it is:
"Hogmanay, Trollolay, give us of your white bread and none of your gray..."
this is to invoke the haugmenn (icelandic for Hill-men) (or elves) ,and banishes the trolls into the sea (Norse á læ 'into the sea').
We will never know. What is known is that the earliest usage of the term Hogmanay in Scotland in the Records of Scotland[iv] although it is recorded earlier in Yorkshire in the 1400s and so it is atleast 600 years old.
How is Hogmany celebrated?
Scotland has a host of traditions that vary from region to region. Even better, in this digital age, individuals around the world are able to participate from grand celebrations to ancient traditions celebrated in the home. Some of these traditions are even world famous and most likely you have seen some of these traditions or participated at some point in your life without knowing!
Singing Auld Lang Syne
Robert Burns penned the words to Auld Lang Syne centuries ago and this has become a standard tradition throughout the world. At the stroke of midnight, revellers will link arms and sing the song,(as best as they can) to welcome the New Year. It is a great way to remember those that are not with us and those that are. This is a case of a Hogmanay traditions that is world famous and has been translated into other languages.
Hogmanay in Edinburgh is considered one of the best events in the world. The event has been held on hold since COVID and 2022 ushers it back in. Fireworks, famous musicians, and night of imbibing spell for one of the world's greatest parties.
Clan Baird traditions: Stonehaven Fireballs
Each year, Stonehaven holds the Stonehaven fireball ceremony. Stonehaven has long been associated with the Bairds and is where the Worldwide society is headquartered. Per the Stonehaven Fireballs Association website:
The Fireball Ceremony is Stonehaven's unique way to welcome in the New Year and greet friends and neighbours. As the midnight chimes ring out on December 31st, approximately 40 men and women parade up and down the High Street swinging fiercely flaming balls around their heads.
The event comes with Bagpipes, and fireballs as a way to celebrate the new year. The festival comes with its own beer!The event is so crowded that the city has begun to livestream the parade. We will watch to see if we can spot the Commander, Richard Holman Baird, or his son Angus, will live be in Stonehaven.
Check out 2019's fireball ceremony:
Perhaps one of the oldest Scottish traditions, and one that is still performed today, first footing is the tradition of being the first person to cross the threshold of a home after midnight. Visitors bring a small gift such as whisky or black bun, a type of fruit cake knock on the door, or some other symbolic gift. The visitor will then cross the doorway and enter the homebe the first person to cross the threshold this year. After which, the whisky and/or cake might be partaken, or the owner of the home will provide them. Guests would then go to the next home to be the first to cross the doorway. In some regions, it is considered unlucky if a male with light or red hair, or a woman, crosses the doorway, and so the individual to first enter would be a dark-haired person. One story is that it harkens back to Norse and Danish invaders:
"This may go back to the time of Vikings when the arrival of a blond stranger at your door would be the cause of fear and alarm."
Dr Donna Heddle, director of the Centre for Nordic Studies at Orkney and Shetland College UHI.
Interesting, this tradition exists in Sweden but the tradition switches. In Sweden light-haired men are considered good luck and dark-haired men are bad luck.
On New Year’s Day, eating a steak pie is considered a tradition. Per the Daily Recorder:
A steak pie has been a New Year's Day favourite in Scotland for generations. While it certainly helps with the post-Hogmanay hangover, its origin isn't fully understood.
It is thought that, since New Year's Day has only been an official holiday for a few hundred years, before then households did not have time to cook anything elaborate on January 1 and so simply bought a big pie from the butchers.
So this year, make a steak pie and enjoy your Scottish roots.
According to the Edinburgh Evening News:
In the Highlands, people would sprinkle ‘magic water’ from a river around the house. They would then burn the branches of juniper in all the rooms until the household were coughing, and were forced to open the windows to let in the fresh air. This would cleanse and protect the house and livestock.
After all of this, a wee dram would be partaken.
Preserving Scottish and Clan Baird Traditions
This Hogmanay add a little Scottish spice to your holidays. Remember your ancestors, or help preserve Scottish customers, by singing a little Auld Lang Syne, follow the Edinburgh celebrations, or try first-footing. It are these customs that keep us connected to heritage and traditions which provides stability in life and keeps memories alive.
And there's a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak' a right gude-willie waught,
for auld lang syne.
So, what Scottish Hogmanay or New Year's Day celebrations do you keep? What would be interesting? Where did we get it wrong? What did we miss? Let us know in the comments.
[i] Crokatt, Gilbert; Monroe, John (1738) [First published 1693]. Scotch Presbyterian eloquence display'd. Rotterdam: J. Johnson. p. 120. It is ordinary among some plebeians in the South of Scotland to go about from door to door upon New-years Eve, crying Hagmane, a corrupted Word from the Greek αγια μηνη, which signifies the Holy Month. [ii] Campbell, John Gregorson (1900, 1902, 2005) The Gaelic Otherworld. Edited by Ronald Black. Edinburgh, Birlinn Ltd. ISBN 1-84158-207-7 p. 575: "'Hogmanay' is French in origin. In northern French dialect it was hoguinané, going back to Middle French aguillaneuf, meaning a gift given on New Year's eve or the word cried out in soliciting it." [iii] Repp, Þorleifur On the Scottish Formula of Congratulation on New Year's Eve – "Hogmanay, Trollalay" (1831) Transactions of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Vol IV [iv] William Cramond, The records of Elgin, 2 (Aberdeen, 1903), p. 119 "delatit to haue been singand hagmonayis on Satirday".Don’t make your guide longer than 2000 words. In an ultimate guide, you also have a lot of space to use your SEO keywords. Put 2-3 keywords around in the post, in the H2 headings, and in the text itself. Add Anchors Links much like a table of contents where readers can click and go to a section of the post. To add them, click on Link in the toolbar above, select Section and select one of the headings in the post.