Why do we say “Happy Hogmanay” in Scotland?

As l’m from Glasgow l have many fond memories of Hogmanay, my grandmother sitting on the sofa snoring as we wait for “the bells”, traditional Scottish folk music with Highland dancing on the television and a coffee table full of fruit loaf, black bun, mince pies, nuts and various other assortments. As the clock struck 12:00 midnight the TV changed to Edinburgh Castle where Mons Meg (A cannon from 1449) is fired, the Champagne glasses are filled and swiftly emptied and off we go to “first foot” to my aunts house. Not once did l ever stop to think, why do we call it Hogmanay in Scotland when the rest of the world calls it New Year’s Eve (in English speaking areas)?

Apart from the fact that we Scots like to be difficult and different, the etymology of Hogmanay is diverse and somewhat debatable. We must, however, realise that the etymology of the name and the traditions are separate creatures from different pasts.

The word Hogmanay has various different roots, all are plausible but there is not one which can claim to be the legitimate source, however, l personally follow the belief that it comes from Norman French hoguinané, a derivative of the Middle French word aguillanneuf (to give a gift at New Year’s, ask for a gift or simply meaning “New Year’s). This ties in nicely with our Scottish tradition of “first footing”, it is tradition in Scotland (after hearing the bells chime) to visit a close family member or important friend. You are the first person to enter into their house and you should bring gifts, some coal, cake and “Uisge Beatha” (Gaelic for “water of life”) otherwise known in English as whisky.

In Scotland the 2nd of January is also a holiday, l presume to rest and overcome the effects of the “water of life”!

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