December 31st is the official holiday all over Scotland as it is the New Year's Eve or the Hogmanay. New Year in Scotland is celebrated with fervor and enthusiasm on January 1st. Hogmanay is also called 'night of the candle'. The idea of celebrating Hogmanay dates back to the pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. These celebrations were inherited from the Vikings who celebrated Yule in the medieval period.
People of Scotland perform all traditions earnestly to bring in prosperity and good health in the New Year. There is a tradition of cleaning the house and surrounding area on 31st December. They also burn juniper branches and carry it throughout the house. People believe that all debts and loans should be paid off before the New Year.
Tradition of Fireball Swinging
The custom of fireball swinging is quite popular in Stonehaven (North-east Scotland). People make balls of chicken wire, tar and paper. Each ball has a 2m wire attached to it. Swingers then swing the balls over their body and head while walking through the streets. The main attraction of the day is casting the burning balls in the harbor. This makes the display even more impressive at the evening time. It signifies the power of sun to purify the world by consuming all evil spirits.
Custom of bonfires
At many places in Scotland, people light bonfires and straw like figures called Auld Wife which represents old year thrown in the burning fire. There is also a torchlight procession which adds to the ongoing New Year activities. Crackers are also burnt to scare off the evil spirits.
Tradition of First Footing
This tradition starts immediately after midnight. The first person to step in the house sets the luck for the coming year. A tall, dark, handsome and dark-haired man is welcomed bearing the New Year gift. The gift should be symbolic such as salt, coal, whisky, shortbread and black bun.
As soon as church bells strike at midnight to welcome the New Year, people start singing the traditional New Year song "Auld Lang Syne" .
The first Monday of the New Year is celebrated as Handsel Day. On this day, employers give presents to their employees and children are given presents by their parents.
The first person to rise up in the morning take Het Pint (spiced ale) to those members who are still asleep. On the New Year's day, children get up early and take rounds singing traditional songs. They are given coins, pies, apples and candies for their sining.
New Year celebrations are a blend of music, drinks and dance when it comes to Scotland. All party halls, clubs, discotheques and restaurants are thronged with people in full party mood. People hug, kiss and wish each other Happy New Year. Special food eaten on this day include wine, cordials, cheese, bread, currant loaf, cones and oatcakes.