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Never mind the Christmas prezzies, here's Hogmanay.

 
Tom Hall
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Fireworks at Hogmanay.
New Year with a bang? You betcha.

Any festive celebration that has two public holidays to recover must be a good one. So Hogmanay definitely qualifies. And then some.

It’s the biggest night in Scotland, and with so many Scots around the world, one of the biggest first-footing, toast-making, Auld Lang Syne singing carry-ons on the planet.

Historically (and Scotland has tons of that) Christmas wasn’t observed as a festival and it was all about Hogmanay at the deepest, darkest time of the year.

Of course, if all you’ve seen of Hogmanay is telly pics of carousing Scots, here are some pointers. Call it the idiot’s guide to Hogmanay.

First off, the name. Hogmanay? No, there’s no porcine connection. In fact, nobody knows for sure where the word 'Hogmanay' came from. Perhaps, from Gaelic or from Norman-French.

The bells, bells.

What we do know is it comes to a climax at ‘The Bells’. No, not that popular whisky blend, but the pealing of bells, more likely to be the bang crash of fireworks these days, as the clock strikes midnight on the 31st.

Then, there’s what is called ‘first footing’, heading over to your neighbour’s house to be the first feet crossing the threshold in the new year. Traditionally (and Scotland has tons of that too) you should be a tall, dark-haired male to bring good luck. Failing that, be sure you have a dram or two, a lump of coal (for warmth) and a piece of black bun (Paul Hollywood has a very fine recipe).

To ‘first-foot’ a house without at least one of these is considered very discourteous. Very bad form.

One verse or two?

Then, it’s time to sing that traditional ditty, Auld Lang Syne. More often than not, that usually starts out very well, but turns into a bit of a mumble as you realise there is actually more than one verse. Never mind, just form a circle, hold hands and do your best.

When you reach the final verse it gets a bit more complicated, but by this time no-one really notices. Everyone crosses their arms across their breast, so that the right hand reaches out to the neighbour on the left and vice versa. When the tune ends, everyone rushes to the middle, while still holding hands. Got it?

By the way, next Hogmanay factoid: the Guinness Book of World Records lists ‘Auld Lang Syne’ as one of the most frequently sung songs in English. It’s been in the movies a few times too, remember ‘When Harry met Sally’?

Here’s to 2017.

There you have it, you are now fully-versed in the correct customs and behaviours of this most convivial of nights. Quite frankly, just follow your heart, smile, laugh, hug, sing and have a wee dram or two and it’ll all be ok. What's more, you'll be safe in the comforting thought that’ll you’ll have two days to get back on an even keel. Sadly, only if you’re in Scotland, of course.

From all of us in Scotland and across the world, have a ‘Guid New Year’.