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Hogmanay & New Year in Scotland

Why would you choose a New Year break in Scotland? Well, no other nation in the world celebrates the New Year with quite as much revelry and passion as Scotland does, and it's hardly surprising that the enormous celebration that engulfs the country is legendary the world over.

Hogmanay is what we Scots call New Year's Eve - 31 December - the big night that marks the arrival of the new year. Its origins reach back to the celebration of the winter solstice among the Vikings with wild parties in late December.

But whatever the scale of the event and wherever it's held, Scotland's Hogmanay celebrations guarantee a warm welcome and more new friends than you ever knew you had, all in a frenzy of goodwill! At midnight, sing along with Auld Lang Syne. For an unforgettable Hogmanay break, it's got to be Scotland.

Hogmanay in Edinburgh

Edinburgh's Hogmanay - When it comes to Hogmanay, Edinburgh certainly knows how to put on a show whether it's the enchanting torchlight procession, the famous Hogmanay street party and spectacular firework display or a toe-tapping ceilidh and concert in Princes Street Gardens.

Celebrations might be different this year but that doesn't mean we can't have a good time! For the first time ever, Edinburgh's Hogmanay are bringing the party online from the 28 December 2020 - 1 January 2021 with a whole host of virtual events to look forward to.

Over three nights, a series of free, online shows will be hosted on with fans from all over the world able to enjoy a visually spectacular event!  Narrated by an incredible group of Scottish talent, the line-up included actors David Tennant, Lorne MacFayden and Siobhan Redmond; Scots Makar Jackie Kay and Celtic fusion band Niteworks.

When the clock strikes midnight, gather your friends and family virtually to raise a toast to a much brighter 2021 where we hope to celebrate in style again.

What to look forward to in 2021

In 2021, enjoy three days of fantastic atmosphere and unforgettable memories. It must be experienced to be believed!

30 December - Torchlight procession

Torchlight Procession

Join the revellers and get the party started! In Scotland, New Year's carousing gets underway when thousands of torch-bearers join Up Helly Aa's Vikings, pipes and drums. Together, they march through the heart of Edinburgh with flaming torches, creating a river of fire down the historic Royal Mile to Holyrood Park for the finale and closing celebrations.

31 December - Hogmanay Street Party

Princes Street welcomes the merrymakers to one of the greatest events on the planet (and we mean it!). Set beneath the spectacular backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, dance the night away at the Concert in the Gardens featuring incredible live music, entertainment, DJs, giant screens, and outdoor bars.

As the bells strike midnight, admire the world-famous Edinburgh Hogmanay Midnight Fireworks on the castle ramparts. And make sure you don't leave before Auld Lang Syne - a national sing-along where you join hands with friends you just met from across the globe in its biggest rendition in the world.

1 January - The Loony Dook

Loony Dook

And if you need something to clear your head the morning after, why not take part in the (literally) breathtaking Loony Dook, the annual splash in the River Forth at South Queensferry? Take part in the Dookers Parade through the High Street before taking the plunge in the freezing Forth with the iconic Forth Bridges as a backdrop. And don't forget your fancy dress! Or you could just sleep in.

Other Hogmanay highlights to look forward to in 2021

It's not just Scotland's capital that knows how to throw a New Year celebration! Here are some fantastic and unique ways to 'bring in the bells' in other parts of Scotland.

A Red Hot Highland Fling in Inverness

Red Hot Highland Fling crowd © Scottish Provincial Press

Scotland's biggest free Hogmanay celebration can be found in the capital of the Highlands, Inverness. The family-friendly Red Hot Highland Fling will be celebrating this year on the banks of the River Ness in Northern Meeting Park, with music and fireworks more than entertaining the crowds. The top billing is always on stage before 10pm so that families can get home to see in the bells. 

Stonehaven Fireballs

Stonehaven Fireballs

In Stonehaven they really turn up the heat at New Year! One of many winter fire festivals unique to Scotland, this fireballs parade in Aberdeenshire is a powerful spectacle to behold. It's a free Hogmanay event which has been celebrated for over 100 years and it always attracts a large crowd. Traditionally, it was a cleansing ritual to burn off any bad spirits left from the old year so that the New Year can begin clean and purified. Watch in awe as the piper leads the procession marching down the street just before midnight as they swing balls of fire above their head in the ultimate test of bravery.

The Biggar Bonfire 

An enormous pile of wood gradually starts to stack up in Biggar town centre in the final weeks of the year in preparation for the South Lanarkshire town's own New Year celebration. Lit at 9.30pm on New Year's Eve, Biggar Bonfire sees the welcoming of a New Year by the townsfolk in a warm, fiery glow.

Drams in Dufftown


Dufftown in Speyside is known as the 'malt whisky capital of the world'. While most of its New Year celebrations are much the same as you would find in small towns and villages up and down the country, it has its own special twist. After the annual Hogmanay ceilidh at a local hotel, the community gathers in The Square where drams of whisky and pieces of shortbread are shared out to see in the bells, courtesy of the local Glenfiddich distillery and Walkers biscuit factory. Slainte!

Aberdeen's Traditional Scottish Hogmanay

For something a little different, book a ticket to Hogmanay Live! in Aberdeen with two shows at the Tivoli Theatre - an evening of traditional Scottish music with Graham Geddes and friends, followed by a second show of Dancing on Tables, a five-piece indie-pop band from Dunfermline. Or enjoy a traditional Hogmanay ceilidh at the Beach Ballroom.

Burghead's Burning of the Clavie

Burning of the Clavie

The residents of Burghead in Moray don't celebrate their New Year on 31 December. Instead, they ignore the Gregorian calendar introduced in the 1750s and continue to celebrate 'old Hogmanay' on 11 January instead. They parade the clavie - a wooden barrel filled with wooden staves - through the town before setting it alight on a nearby hill, smouldering well into the next day. The origins of the festival are subject to debate, but as it takes place later than the official New Year's Eve, it's the perfect excuse to celebrate twice!

Comrie Flambeaux

Like many of Scotland's famous fire festivals, the Comrie Flambeaux is likely to be pagan in origin - when fire was used to warn away evil spirits of the old year - but no one in this Perthshire village is certain of when it first began. On New Year's Eve, eight or so lit torches, some nearly 10 ft in height, parades around the small village at midnight. The procession is accompanied by music, people in fancy dress and general merriment and celebration before the torches are thrown into the River Earn.

Hogmanay House

As the new year begins, celebrate the magic and origins of Hogmanay at Lauriston Castle with musicians, magicians and storytellers. Located in secluded grounds on the outskirts of Edinburgh, this stunningly beautiful castle is rich in history with spectacular views over the Firth of Forth. Explore its opulent rooms, secret passages and hidden chambers as you uncover some of the weirdest and most wonderful Hogmanay traditions from around Scotland from the 2nd - 5th of January. Hogmanay House is part of Magicfest.

Hogmanay traditions

There are many old Hogmanay rituals and customs that are celebrated in Scotland to this day. The origins of many of them are unknown, but many are believed to bring good luck for the New Year.

  • First-footing - to ensure good luck, the first foot to arrive in your house on New Year's Day should be a dark-haired male (believed to be a throwback to Viking days when blonde strangers arriving on your doorstep meant trouble). The first-footer should also bring symbolic gifts, such as coal, shortbread, salt, black buns or whisky, to ensure good fortune for the year ahead.
  • Clean the house - to begin the New Year with an unclean house is considered bad luck. Houses used to be cleared throughout to welcome the New Year into a tidy and neat house, including taking out the ashes from the fire in the days when coal fires were common.
  • Clear your debts - an old superstition states that you should try to clear all your debts before the stroke of midnight.
  • Sing Robert Burns' Auld Lang Syne after midnight - this custom is a staple of Hogmanay parties across the country (and many countries around the world too!). After the bells at midnight, join in a rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne to start the New Year in real Scottish style.