As the clock ticks towards the ‘witching hour’ and theend of 2014, north of the border in Scotland the celebration of Hogmanay willbegin in earnest. While the rest of us in England will welcome in the New Yearof 2015 in our way, perhaps with a drink or two with friends and family,Scotland takes its partying to another level and to ensure that they all haveat least the chance of letting their hair down, they take an extra Bank Holidayto recover!

‘Hogmanay’ is the Scots’ word for the last day of theyear (according to Wikipedia at least) and marks the Gregorian calendar’stiming for when the New Year begins, although the word’s first usage seemsunclear and it may have been introduced to the Scots by the French.

There are many traditions associated with thecelebration, including ‘first-footing’ which is deemed to begin straight aftermidnight. It relates to the quaint custom of being the first person across afriend or neighbour’s threshold and the giving of a small (inexpensive) gift tomark the occasion to bring luck to the householder, such as a piece ofshortbread (for which the Scots are renown) or a small dram of whisky. Inreturn, the guest is commonly offered sustenance in the form of food and drink.Superstition has it that the ‘first-foot’ should preferably belong to a tall,dark man, although one wonders if that custom is favoured by single womenwithin the household!

Those familiar with visits to Edinburgh will be wellversed in their New Year celebrations, with thousands of locals and outsiders gatheringaround the city centre for an evening of musical entertainment in the form of amass street party, with a colourful fireworks display in the area in and aroundthe iconic and imposing Edinburgh Castle, as well as a funfair in the gardens. Indeedtheir Festivities began yesterday evening with the Torchlight Procession aroundparts of the city. Of course, no Hogmanay celebration would be complete withouta dram or two of a local tipple or two of your preferred beverage.

Other parts of Scotland have their own unique traditions,such as fireball swinging in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, or in the Highlandsthey may celebrate by ‘saining’ (suggesting protection or a blessing) of one’shousehold or the livestock they own.

No doubt a few verses of the traditional New Year standardwill be given a hearty rendition across the UK and even the world (although inthe Southern hemisphere they may well have already exhausted their vocal chordshaving seen in the start of 2015 several hours earlier), as ‘Auld Lang Syne’ issung.

Those who do not or can not venture out can enjoy theirown musical extravaganza on terrestrial television, with Jools Holland layingon his annual Hootenanny show, which will welcome in the New Year with avariety of eclectic guests including Ronnie Spector, Ed Sheeran, Paolo Nutiniand Wilko Johnson, as well as his own excellent Rhythm & Blues Orchestra.

Whatever format yourown celebrations take this evening (quiet or raucous), hopefully it will be an enjoyableone and it only leaves me to wish you a Happy New Year for 2015.
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