By: jbhthescots@mac.com, Categories: Words & Images, 2 comments



It’s Hogmanay and the Scots take over, wherever in the world they might happen to be – because few are as passionate about the New Year than we Scots thanks to the endeavours of the scowling firebrand John Knox, as we more or less invented the concept because he banned Christmas for being a tad too poperish for his puritanical liking.


Here in Glasgow, for centuries – since 1626, to be precise – people would congregate at the Tolbooth Steeple in the heart of the Merchant City (shown in today’s photo) to ring out the old and ring in the new. And indeed, when Scottish Television first went on the air at 11:30pm on 31st December 1957, they did so with their first-ever Hogmanay Show being aired live from there.


Despite many theories as to its origins, no-one knows for sure where the word “Hogmanay” originated from. What is known is that Hogmanay is the Scots word for the final day of the year, and today it is most frequently used to refer to the evening’s celebrations. Theories have placed “Hogmanay” as a product of Gaelic or Norman-French origin, with the similarities to “Homme est né” (“Man is born”) in French also being noted.


Scotland’s raucous new year celebration is also the descendant of a Viking festival which acknowledged the winter solstice. In addition to this, Christmas in Scotland was a very muted affair for over 300 years, as it was seen as a mainly Catholic festival by John “Opportunity” Knox and his Scottish Protestant kirks who duly banned it after the Reformation.


As well as banning the celebration of Christmas, Scotland was one of the earliest nations to change its New Year’s day from 25 March to 1 January; marking a clear moment in winter where one year ended and another began. Crucially, though, it gave the nation another event to celebrate that was culturally distinct from Christmas and its Catholic connotations, with presents exchanged and family and friends reuniting during Hogmanay.


And with regards to those Norse roots, firework displays and torchlit parades are still common over Hogmanay throughout Scotland, with the Stonehaven Fireball Ceremony being one of the most famous and oft televised. Here, large fireballs are swung on metal chains down the town’s main street, signifying the Winter Solstice and the rejuvenating power of the sun.


Also for those that remember the blog history lesson from New Year’s Eve 2013, Around Midnight, Robert Burns’ world-famous Auld Lang Syne is traditionally sung after the New Year bells have tolled. And as an added bonus, Scotland is lucky enough to have 2 January as a bank holiday (unlike the rest of UK), a perfect excuse to continue the party well into 2016…so a Happy New Year to All!


Olympus OM4T & 2/21mm Zuiko

Ilford Delta 400 (@200)

HC-110 (Dil. B – 7 min)

Plustek 7600i & Vuescan



  • Very informative John, nice photo too. Happy New Year when it comes!

  • it made very good reading John I enjoyed reading it....have a great 2016 !! may it be healthy & happy