> Hillwalk Tours Blog > Hillwalk Guides > Scottish Holidays: What is Hogmanay?
POSTED BY November 30, 2021

Fireworks, music, Vikings and torches: the Scottish celebration of old and new is a special experience. For Scots Hogmanay is one of the most important events of the year. Large-scale parades, fireworks and performances take place in Edinburgh. But what exactly is Hogmanay and where do the traditions come from? Read on to learn about what this famous Scottish holiday?

What is Hogmanay?

Hogmanay is the name Scots give to their New Year’s Eve celebration. In some ways, the festivities are very similar to those of other European countries during New Years, but there are also some differences. The main difference is that Hogmanay takes longer: the celebration starts as early as December 30 and continues until January 2, which is a national holiday in Scotland.

Hogmanay is one of the largest New Years celebrations in the world. An impressive parade takes place in Edinburgh on 30 December, with thousands of people carrying burning torches. The sea of ​​fire slowly moves through the streets of Edinburgh, accompanied by musicians with drums and bagpipes.

Fireworks during the Scottish holiday – Hogmanay

An element that, of course, cannot be missing from Hogmanay – as with most other New Year’s Eve celebrations – is fireworks. The annual fireworks display in Edinburgh is without a doubt one of the highlights for the Scottish capital.

Photo: Edinburgh Evening News

Edinburgh’s fireworks display is known as one of the most beautiful in the world. The beauty is not only in the colorful light explosions of the fireworks themselves, but also in the setting. The fireworks are fired at the idyllic Edinburgh Castle, which sits on a rocky hill in the heart of the city.

Auld Lang Syne

The New Year is traditionally ushered in with Auld Lang Syne, a poem written by Robert Burns in 1788. The iconic lyrics of one of the most famous Scottish poets in history are sung to the tune of a traditional national anthem.

In addition, parties and concerts take place throughout the city.

Even outside the Scottish capital, Hogmanay is celebrated with similar traditions, although these are generally smaller in scale than those in Edinburgh.

History of Hogmanay

Hogmanay’s origins are believed to be in traditions of Normans or Vikings. They celebrated the shortest day of the year with a festival full of rituals. They are said to have introduced these festivities to Scotland in the eighth and ninth centuries when they invaded the area several times.


Also, customs of Samhain, the original Celtic New Year’s Eve celebration, are also included in the Scottish celebration. The Celts celebrated Samhain in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man – the festival is seen as the precursor to Halloween.

So, now you know the history of this famous Scottish holiday and what Hogmanay is all about! If you’re interested in visiting Scotland, why not consider a Scotland walking holiday such as on the iconic West Highland Way.

West Highland Way Hillwalk Tours Ltd.
Hiking Scotland – West Highland Way