5 Ways to Celebrate Hogmanay

by Ilona Kauremszky

Global Celebrations

Torch lights, the drone of bagpipes and the thrill of watching a night sky light up with some serious pyrotechnic fireworks over the fabled Edinburgh Castle are just some of the joys of Hogmanay jubilation around Scotland.


The other: party-party-party!

The ancient name of Hogmanay conjures up images of primal Scot spirits, sprinkled with a little J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts wizard magic thrown in for good measure.

After all, Hogmanay is as old as them thar ramparts and the Highland mysteries that give Scotland its edge as an out-of-this-world party destination. Some swear it’s the sun and fire worship during the deep, dark winter that sprung Hogmanay’s roots.

But ask a Scot what Hogmanay is, and they’re bound to modestly tell ya’ it’s only the biggest party the world has ever seen. In some spots, it’s three-days: December 30–January 1.

Here’s why:

Edinburgh—Hogmanay Central

This year, Scotland’s capital is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the country’s biggest alfresco street party, with events showcasing musicians, athletes and artists. Insiders say more than 80, 000 revellers are expected for this year’s big bash.

The festivities start on December 30, when thousands of torch-bearing Viking-like costumed dudes—who look like they’d be up for a wee bit of old-fashioned pillaging, but it’s all in good fun—follow blasting bagpipers around the darkened streets to Calton Hill. Once there, watch a frenzy of fireworks—the official Hogmanay festival opener.

On New Year’s Eve, star-studded fireworks over Edinburgh Castle usher in the big countdown for the special Midnight Moment. Many get teary-eyed as friend and foe link arms and sing the world famous Auld Lang Syne by Scotland’s own national poet, Robert Burns. The song has become the ubiquitous anthem for New Year’s celebrations worldwide, even in countries that don’t speak English. Music gets top billing and this year, 80s rock band Simple Minds (Glasgow boys), The View (Dundee boys) and Edinburgh newcomers Bwani Junction are set to perform into the wee hours.

The annual mass splash into the Forth River (aka the Loony Dook) finishes off the festival on New Year’s Day.

Glasgow’s Fest

George Square pipes in on Hogmanay as Glaswegians get ready for the big free family fun day. Expect street actors, lots of kilts, Scottish music and food and the essential Highland dancing at this Ceilidh (kaay-lee)—that’s Gaelic for party gathering.


Stonehaven’s Swingin’ Balls of Fire

This small coastal town outside Aberdeen is preparing to wow spectators with its highly anticipated Fireball Festival. Expect the Red Hot Chili Peppers to kick off the hot event. The RHCP performed last year at the epic Stirling Castle.

Stirling’s Got the Castle

The heart of Scotland pounds ever so loudly during this party in a castle setting. Stirling Castle will be seen and heard in a new light when twin-brother Scottish lads The Proclaimers headline this year’s festivities. (Think back to the 80s hit I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) and the soundtrack to the Johnny Depp cult classic What’s Eating Gilbert Grape).


Kirkwall Ba’ Game

Off the coast of Scotland, every New Year’s Day the streets of Kirkwall in Orkney turn into a frenzied street football game. The long-hailed annual event pits brothers, friends, neighbours, relatives and any other familiar souls living near the Viking town to battle over the ball. Brawny young lads descend into madness as the handmade ball drops into the street and the kirk (Scottish for church) bell tolls 10:30 am. There appears to be no rules other than to try not to break too many shop windows. Swarms of hundreds of testosterone-fuelled brutes follow the ball down the cramped village streets. The older chaps get their chance to be bruised by the battle of the ball at 1 p.m.

Happy New Year!

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