New Year’s Eve generally sucks, too many novices out to party and ruining the fun for real raging professionals. The exception is Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, an absolute belter of a party in the Scottish capital that neatly combines tradition with wild party antics.
What is Hogmanay?
Hogmanay literally means New Year’s Eve in Scottish. The tradition goes back centuries, taking influence from the Vikings who once inhabited here and their propensity to rage over the winter solstice, and elements of ancient Gaelic traditions. It’s such a big deal because celebrating Christmas was banned in Edinburgh by the protestants — it wasn’t even made a holiday until 1958 — so the fun-loving Scots were forced to go all out when ringing in the New Year.
Where is Hogmanay?
Hogmanay is all over Scotland, but the biggest and best is in Edinburgh. The city comes alive, with stages set up all over featuring international and local musical acts, street parades and fireworks from Edinburgh Castle.
When is Hogmanay?
New Year’s Eve, dummy, but does spread over a few days. We find that it’s not worth three days of your time, so we opt to shoot up from London for a 24-hour madness trip. Get in, party our kilts off, get out.
It starts with a torch parade that winds through Edinburgh, led by real-life Vikings! Or at least Scottish guys dressed as them. After that the street party is the place to be, then the traditional linking of the arms and singing (read: drunken slurring) of Auld Lang Syne. After that the locals will hope that the first person to enter their house in the New Year will be a tall, dark man, preferably bearing gifts of coal. This is known as first footing. Then there’s more drinking, in the streets and in bars and clubs, before the sun rises on New Year’s Day and a bunch of literal crazy people go and take a dip in the fucking freezing water in a tradition known as the Loony Dook.
The street party is the main event, with stages set up all over the city featuring local and international acts, traditional Scottish dances, and the fireworks spectacular.
You’ve got to buy tickets for the street party, but of course they’re included in Stoke Travel’s Hogmanay New Year’s trip, along with private party train travel from London and back. Given that accommodation is so expensive and full over Hogmanay we like to get in, get the partying done, and then vegetate on the train on the way home.
It’s really the only way to have a great New Year’s Eve — to get away from the maddening crowds of party plebs and go to where the locals are pros at partying on the last day of the year. Hogmanay is a cultural event steeped in tradition, and a damn good way to ring in the New Year buckwild surrounded by people apparently speaking your language but doing so in an indecipherable way.