History of Hogmanay

posted in: Holidays, Traditions | 0

Hogmanay is the Scottish tradition for New Year’s.

The word is a Scots word for the last day of the year.

While the origins are unclear, it is believed they are derived from Norse and Gaelic observances.

The origins of the word Hogmanay are unknown.  The earliest evidence of the word dates to the 1693  Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence, which held that the term was a corruption of the Greek agía míne (αγία μήνη), or “holy month”

The first record of the word is recorded in a “Latin entry in 1443 in the West Riding of Yorkshire as hagnonayse.”  Then in 1604, records in Elgin, Scotland first has the use of the word hagmonay.

Other 17th Century spellings include “Hagmena (1677), Hogmynae night (1681), and Hagmane (1693) in an entry of the Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence.” Numerous other spellings and pronunciations also exists.

Three different possibilities exists to the origins of this tradition.

1. A children’s tradition of visiting homes in the local area and requesting small treats of sweets or fruits dating back to 16th Century Middle France.

2. Part of the Gaelic rhymes traditionally recited at New Year

3. The Norse tradition of winter solstice when hill-men or “Elves” who banish trolls into the sea which was known under the rhyme “Hogmanay, Trollolay, give us of your white bread and none of your gray”

Whatever, the truth, it seems as if maybe all of these traditions have been incorporated into the present-day tradition.

Being the first visitor to the home used to be very important

While customs vary throughout Scotland, traditionally it includes gift-giving and visiting homes of friends and neighbors.  Special attention is given to the first-foot, which refers to the first guest of the new year.

Some symbolic gifts to present to the householder for good luck are salt, coal, shortbread, whisky and a rich fruit cake known as black bun.

For the house owner, it is acceptable to provide food and drink to their guests.

This may go on throughout the early hours of the morning and well into the next day or in more modern times into the first week or two of the month.

Singing Auld Lang Syne is also a Hogmanay custom.  The song is based on the poem by the Scottish poet, Robert Burns.  This is a practice which has spread throughout much of the world.

Many towns in Scotland hold their own Hogmanay traditions.  The largest Scottish cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Stirling and Inverness hold all night celebration.

Most Scots still celebrate New Year’s Day with a special dinner, usually steak pie.

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