Everything you need for a happy Hogmanay

by Colin Sinclair

Everything you need for a happy Hogmanay

New Year’s Eve is a night millions of people look forward to all over the world.

One of the places it’s particularly celebrated is Scotland, where it has its own special name – Hogmanay.

With fireworks, parties, and a 3-day festival of fun (the Scots have an extra public holiday on 2nd January to welcome in the New Year), it marks an opportunity to shake off the old year and welcome in the new. 

Planning to kick the New Year off in style this year? Find out more about the legendary Hogmanay traditions and raise a glass with the Whisky Tasting Company.


History of Hogmanay

Hogmanay dates back hundreds of years.

Originally, it was a celebration called Samhain, which marked the end of the harvest. This later became the midwinter Yule festival and involved much eating, drinking, and merry-making.  

At this time, Catholicism was Scotland’s dominant religion – but in 1560, during the Reformation, things changed, and the frivolity was frowned upon. This included the celebration of Christmas, and in 1640, the Christmas break was officially banned in Scotland. It’s believed that as a result of this, celebrations and gift-giving were pushed back to New Year instead.

The Act was partially withdrawn some years later, but it was only in 1958 that Christmas became a public holiday in Scotland – by which time, New Year’s Eve had firmly established itself in the heart of Scots as a celebration not to be missed.

Where the name (pronounced ‘Hog-mah-nay’) actually came from is a bit of a mystery, though it’s largely thought to originate from the French word ‘hoginane’, which means ‘gala day’.

Hogmanay traditions

Hogmanay traditions

Jump forward to 2023, and the traditions of Hogmanay live on.

Scotland draws huge crowds over the New Year period, with Edinburgh entertaining more than 80,000 visitors with its famous NYE street party. 

Yet there’s more to this celebration than just partying…


Getting ready

Ahead of New Year, it’s a Scottish tradition to spend time ‘redding the house’. This basically means taking time out for a good old-fashioned spring clean and clearing ashes from the fire. The idea being that everything is clean and tidy, so you’re ready to start the new year afresh.


First footing

If you’re really going to embrace Hogmanay, you need to get ready to be, or receive, a ‘first footer’.

This means being the first visitor of the New Year. Tradition says it should be a tall dark-haired male, which dates back to the Viking invasions – Vikings were typically fairer-haired, so a blonde man knocking at your door could have signalled danger.

The custom also says he should come bearing gifts, traditionally coal, black bun (a dark rye bread), or whisky, to bring good luck for the year ahead.

These days, your gender and hair colour won’t leave you outside – but if you want a really warm reception, take goodies with you!



A Hogmanay fire symbolises the new sun and is thought to ward off evil spirits.

Fire still plays an important role in Hogmanay, whether it’s bonfires and fireworks, lantern processions, or a blazing fire pit to toast marshmallows.


‘Bring in the bells’ with Auld Lang Syne

As the clock chimes midnight and rings in the new day, one song you’re guaranteed to hear – virtually anywhere in the world – is Auld Lang Syne. But we’ll bet you didn’t realise this tradition started in Scotland!

Written by famous Scot poet, Robert Burns, this well-known song is all about reflecting on the 12 months gone by and looking ahead. Perfect for singing in the New Year, it’s been adopted as a classic by many countries across the globe.


Food and drink 

Food and drink are a big part of the celebrations. Fruitcake, black bun, and shortbread are customary treats to offer guests and to take as gifts if you’re first footing.

And whilst a glass of champagne is always going to add a little fizz of excitement, no Hogmanay celebration would be complete without a wee drop of the good stuff – whisky!

Celebrate Hogmanay in style 

Celebrate Hogmanay in style

Want to be prepared for an unplanned knock at the door? Dusting off your trainers, eager to be a first footer bearing great gifts?

Then you need one of our whisky sets.

Keep it traditional with the Isle of Arran single malt whisky gift set – winner of the Scottish Distiller of the Year.

Try an exciting selection of five of the finest peaty and Islay malts, showcasing some of the very best independent producers in Scotland.    

Or treat them – or yourself – to a selection of old and rare whiskies.

Alternatively, if you fancy putting a twist on tradition, how about world whiskies? This set features five superb international whiskies selected from award-winning distilleries across the globe, including Sweden and France!

Every set contains tasting cards and a tasting mat and comes beautifully presented in a Whisky Tasting Company gift box – the perfect gift for any Hogmanay celebration, and guaranteed to get 2024 off to an excellent start.

Order a whisky gift set now, or to find out more about any of the whiskies or subscriptions we have available, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

You can call the team on 01743 247 220, or fill in our contact form and we’ll be back in touch soon.