How to Celebrate New Year – Scotland Style

How to Celebrate New Year – Scotland Style

Thanks to Rabbie Burns and his universally sung (and rarely understood) Auld Lang Syne, Scots sorta feel like we invented New Year’s Eve – or Hogmanay – as we call it.

Here are some of the strange things we Scots do to welcome in a New Year.

We call it The Bells From mid-December everyone asks each other What are you doing for The Bells?

Buy enough food for the whole year Visit a Scottish supermarket around 5pm on Hogmanay and you’d think there’s been a plague of locusts in town.

Super-clean our homes (I pass on this one) – this includes washing curtains, skirting board, plumping up cushions, cleaning the oven, changing the beds etc etc. Apparently it’s bad luck to start a new year with an untidy house.

Spread the celebrations out over 3 days. It all kicks off on Hogmanay (31 December) and rolls on into Ne’erday (1 Janaury) and then…and here’s the clever bit, unlike the rest of the UK we take 2nd January off work to recover.

Eat a huge plate of steak pie, mashed potatoes and peas. Some go for The Full Steak Pie Dinner around 9ish on Hogmanay to line the stomach, others serve it on the 1st January as the ultimate hangover cure. Some nutters, who have partying too hard, are delighted to find a steak pie in their fridge around the 6th of January

First-foot our homes You need to find yourself a Tall, Dark and Handsome Man (not so easy in Scotland) whose job is to be outside your door at midnight clutching a piece of coal (representing warmth), bread and salt (so all in the house will be well fed during the year), a coin (for financial prosperity) and a wee dram (whisky) – good cheer. After The Bells the TDH Man’s job is to knock on the door, first-foot the home, wish everyone A Happy New Year and kiss all the women.  Red-heads need not apply, apparently!

As if you’re not busy enough cleaning the house, prepping the steak pie and bossing about the First Footer you also have to open all the windows as the bells chime to let the old year out and new year in

Drink Whisky is good but anything will do

Make New Year resolutions Generally, this involves, swearing to lose at least 10 pounds, get fit and take up something random – learning Mandarin, bookbinding or cycling through Europe – and sticking to all that for around 10 days.

Sing Auld Lang Syne When I say sing I mean yell your way through the first verse and chorus then Tum Di Tum Di Tum Di Tum your way through the other four verses.

What does it mean anyway?  Auld Lang Syne means Days Gone by or the Old Days.  The song starts with a rhetorical question: should old times be forgotten? And the answer is, of course, no – instead we should take ‘a cup o’ kindness’ in order to look back on the past.  It’s basically all about remembering and cherishing old friendships, good deeds and toasting health and goodwill for the year ahead. Nice eh. Which is probably why this simple folk song (featured in tons of movies including Sex in the City, Harry Met Sally, It’s a Wonderful Life and The Apartment) is sung throughout the world to welcome in a new year.

According to a recent survey, only 3% of Brits know the words to Auld Lang Syne – so in case you fancy belting it out at The Bells – here are the words.

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
Sin’ auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin’ auld lang syne.
And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.

And here’s Rod Stewart’s effort – would bring a tear tae a glass eye.

Happy New Year to You and Yours

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  1. 30 December 2017 / 9:10 am

    Oh aye, we loved our time in Scotland. Though it was a tad warmer in June 🙂 Lovely post, Jill.

    • 30 December 2017 / 9:17 am

      Hey Suz it’s bobble hat time up here! Have a lovely new year.

  2. 30 December 2017 / 9:20 am

    I’d love to go back to Edinburgh for new year. I went in 2004 I think but the new year celebration was cancelled due to high winds. Still had an awesome time with friends 🙂

    • 30 December 2017 / 9:39 am

      The weather can be really harsh here. Thanks for commenting and Happy 2018 to you. JIll x

  3. 30 December 2017 / 9:22 am

    Here’s to a happy New Year for all of us. I have yet to be in Scotland for Hogmanay as an adult – definitely something I want to experience

    • 30 December 2017 / 9:38 am

      Hey Fiona, thanks for that. And Happy New Year to you (when it comes). I’m heading through to Edinburgh ! Jill

  4. 30 December 2017 / 9:37 am

    Happy New Year Jill….and it was wonderful to learn about how Scots celebrate New Year’s eve……particularly the TDH part….:):)

    • 30 December 2017 / 9:39 am

      Hey Anindya lovely to hear from you. Finding A TDH Man can be a challenge. Thanks for commenting and Happy 2018 to you. JIll x

  5. 30 December 2017 / 9:39 am

    Happy New Year! Learnt a lot from this post, Thankyou for sharing!

    • 30 December 2017 / 9:40 am

      Hey Lauren Thanks for commenting and Happy 2018 to you and yours JIll x

  6. 30 December 2017 / 9:49 am

    And watching Phil and Aly presented by Jackie Bird.

    Happy New Year when the bells go, Jill. xox

    • 30 December 2017 / 9:52 am

      Hey Lorna, totally forgot about classic Hogmanay TV! Happy 2018 to you and yours Jill x

  7. 30 December 2017 / 10:08 am

    Happy New Year’s Jill!!! I have a man of average height who is somewhat dark and very handsome, will this work?

    • 30 December 2017 / 10:20 am

      Hey Cherie that sound just about right 🙂 Happy 2018 when it comes JIll x

  8. 30 December 2017 / 10:09 am

    I’d love to be in Scotland for “the bells”! thanks for posting the words to Auld Lang Syne, does anyone actually know them after the first chorus?

    • 30 December 2017 / 10:19 am

      Hi Claire lovely to hear from you. It’s cold here but it’s always a fun night. I thought there were only 2 versus ! Many of the words are a total mystery to me 🙂 Have a great 2018 when it comes. Jill x

  9. Stuart
    30 December 2017 / 10:16 am

    A nice blog to end the year – witty and informative (I’d never heard of those other verses).

    Growing up, I remember a neighbour who used to shove her poor husband out the front door at 5 to midnight in all kinds of weather – presumably in an effort to prevent one of her Short, Pasty or Ugly friends from wrecking the year ahead by being first across her threshold.

    Orrabestfurrabelz !!

    • 30 December 2017 / 10:18 am

      Hahaha. I don’t remember that but it’s funny how the old traditions stick with you. I still open up my window and let the old year out and new one in! Mum has a lot to answer for 🙂 x

  10. 30 December 2017 / 10:21 am

    This brought back amazing memories from a few years ago Jill! We once spent Hogmanay with Sottish friends up north near Inverness and had an absolute ball. As my husband is tall, dark and handsome he was very welcome wherever we went. It was the first time I’d ever heard of first footing and it was so much fun. It was without a doubt the best NYE we’ve ever had, so thanks for sharing and letting me re-live it! Happy New Year to you 🙂

    • 30 December 2017 / 10:40 am

      Hey Debbie lovely to hear from u. I love the first footing tradition and opening the window to let old year out!! INVERNESS would be beautiful at this time of year. Have a lovely 2018 when it comes. Jill x

  11. 30 December 2017 / 11:16 am

    Hi Jill and Happy Hogmanay to you! As I have Scottish ancestry I was thrilled to see this post. Thank you for all the reads, comments, and shares throughout the year.

    • 30 December 2017 / 12:21 pm

      Hey Phil Oh you’re a Scot at heart 🙂 I love all the old traditions. Have a lovely New Year and thanks for all your support and sharing this year. JIll x

  12. 30 December 2017 / 11:48 am

    It sounds like a lot of hard work so soon after Christmas, but it’s probably worth it if it brings a TDM into the house at the start of the year :-).

    • 30 December 2017 / 11:54 am

      Very true! Thanx for commenting. Have a great 2018. Jill x

    • 30 December 2017 / 12:20 pm

      Yes lots of work but fun. . Have a lovely New Year JIll x

  13. 30 December 2017 / 12:17 pm

    This is Great! We have let the NYE traditions die a little here unfortunately. Enjoy every bit!

    • 30 December 2017 / 12:20 pm

      Oh thanks. .I love all the old traditions. Have a lovely New Year and thanks for all your support and sharing this year. JIll x

  14. 30 December 2017 / 1:34 pm

    I love the fact that you Scots go all out for ‘The Bells’ and have a bloody good time, I particularly like the idea of a First Footer! It is no wonder nobody knows more than the first verse of Auld Lang Syne as it looks like a foreign language! I

    • 30 December 2017 / 1:37 pm

      Haha. Yes it’s like a foreign la gauge to me too. Have a lovely new year. Jill x

  15. 30 December 2017 / 2:29 pm

    I always have to visit you as you make me smile. This post was no exception. Happy New Years! Can you believe it – the week went by too fast for me.

    • 30 December 2017 / 3:29 pm

      Hi Brenda thanks – you’ve made my day. Have a Happy New Year and catch up in 2018! JIll x

  16. 30 December 2017 / 2:44 pm

    You’re traditions sound awesome and thanks for posting the lyrics to that song. I could never figure out what they were when I would hear it! 🙂 Have a Happy New Year!

    • 30 December 2017 / 3:28 pm

      Hey Lisa, lovely to hear from you. Yes I love all the old traditions. Have a Happy New Year when The Bells chime 🙂 JIll

  17. 30 December 2017 / 4:41 pm

    With a fierce Scottish Mother from Blantyre. I probably no many more of the words than other Heathens from England’s green and pleasant land. But I loved the reminder on #SocialSaturday. As I sang the ole lang syne.

    • 30 December 2017 / 5:42 pm

      Hi ELlen that’s funny. Im baffled by a lot of the words fro
      auld Lang syne but I love it. Happy 2018. Jill x

  18. 31 December 2017 / 6:05 am

    Good to read interesting and fun facts about celebrating new year in Scotland….I am loughing loud at some…first foot our home…really interesting…..Happy 2018!!!

    • 31 December 2017 / 6:48 am

      Thanx for reading. Yes we have some strange traditions !! Have a very happy 2018 when it comes around. Jill x

  19. 31 December 2017 / 6:55 am

    Scottish ways to ring in the new year (ahem, do the bells) sounds awesome. You’ll be left with a clean house, a full belly…and maybe a hangover for the new year. Yay for that extra day off!

    • 31 December 2017 / 8:10 am

      Hey Jose – you’re spot on! Thanks for commenting and Happy New Year when it comes around. Jill x

  20. 31 December 2017 / 5:19 pm

    I’ve always been jealous of those Scots getting an extra day off at New Year! There were many years (when I was young and stupid) when I didn’t even surface on New Years Day… I thought the whole purpose was to sleep through and wake up on 2nd January! Having another day to recover sounds like an excellent plan (although I’m now in an industry where I have an enforced two week break so I’m not back to work until the 8th January anyway!)

    Have a wonderful Hogmany Jill!

    • 1 January 2018 / 6:13 pm

      Lovely to hear from you. Yes the extra day is a total bonus. I am sure we miss out on a bank holiday sometime in the year – but right now that feels like a small sacrafice! Happy 2018 to you and yours. JIll x

  21. 1 January 2018 / 5:50 pm

    The Scots know how to celebrate New Year in style!!A great post that I have shared on PainPals feature “Monday Magic – Inspiring Blogs to start 2018!”. Just booking our Burns night celebrations down south (London)! Happy New Year, C x

    • 1 January 2018 / 6:09 pm

      Hey Claire, thanks so much for that. I am well chuffed!! Happy new year to you. JIll x

  22. 15 January 2018 / 1:23 am

    Sounds great.

    I just went to bed early.

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