New Year’s Eve can be a hit or miss. Anyone old enough to have roamed the streets looking for a mythical party in sub-zero temperatures at least once, has a New Year horror story and its fairy-tale doppelganger, ‘The Best New Year Ever’. But how difficult is it really to pull off one great evening and enter the Hogmanay Hall of Fame? Well, the hint is in the word ‘Hogmanay’. Because anyone with a drop of Scottish blood in their veins will tell you, the Scots are seriously skilled at New Year celebrations. But if you aren’t up for the annual Hogmanay Street Party in Edinburgh (Europe’s oldest and best), don’t despair. Another great thing about Hogmanay is how well it travels and how easy it is to pull off your own version of the Scottish classic with a little bit of insider information.
Get Everyone Singing
Traditionally, Hogmanay is a big family and friends party, so invite as many folk as you think you can manage and let them know you’re serious right from the start. There isn’t a Scot anywhere who doesn’t know Auld Lang Syne and it’s almost law to belt out a version at the stroke of midnight on January 1st. So instead of going down the route of tartan and haggis for your invitations, email guests the lyrics to Burns’ legendary poem, ask them to learn the chorus at least and get ready to rock it out for the bells. And if you’re worried about a lack of Celtic authenticity, let these Californian boys put your mind at rest.
A Quick Word About Tartan
It’s cold in Scotland, especially in winter, so most natives don’t head out on Hogmanay in full Highland dress. But if you’re at home and you’ve a whisper of Scottish ancestry, go right ahead. Otherwise, a piece of tartan ribbon or a scarf is just fine. And anyone under the age of five is allowed to wear as many kilts as they like, because they look shamelessly cute.
Raid Scotland’s Larder
Tradition dictates Scots eat a homemade steak pie for lunch on New Year’s Day. The culinary customs for Hogmanay aren’t as clear. So a fail-safe foodie plan is to use wonderful Scottish ingredients instead of Scottish recipes. From Loch Fyne Oysters and Smoked Salmon to venison and grass fed lamb, you have plenty to work with. Remember it’s a family party and it’s winter, so you can relax a bit and think simple and delicious rather than fiddly finger food. And if you’re having midnight fireworks, a bowl of homemade Scotch Broth is perfect to warm up and wind down after the excitement.
A Twist on Tradition
You can’t have a traditional Hogmanay Party without whisky. But leave ‘Smokey Island Malts’ to the purists and liven things up with some whisky based cocktails instead. You don’t need to buy an expensive brand, a mid-range blended Scotch is fine. And take it easy. A couple of whisky cocktails go a long way.
Time For Fireworks
The Chinese may have invented fireworks, but the Scots claim them for Hogmanay, so you definitely want some pyrotechnic sparkle for your party. But you don’t need Edinburgh Castle’s drama to make an impression. Fantastic, exciting fireworks are available for all sizes of garden and you can even get ‘quiet’ ones now, if you’re worried about young children and pets. A patio with external glazed bi-fold doors is perfect for guests to watch the display safely and gives the option of being indoors if the January cold is a bit bracing at midnight. Before you spend any money, have a look at this excellent guide to choosing the right fireworks, setting up a garden display, keeping things safe and still managing to be spectacular.
To Ceilidh or Not To Ceilidh?
Unless you’ve hired the local town hall for Hogmanay a real Ceilidh is probably a bit ambitious. But don’t let that stop you adding some traditional atmosphere to your party with a non-traditional playlist. Scottish music isn’t all mournful dirges and wailing about the weather these days. There’s a whole new generation of fiddle bands, ceilidh bands and cool pipers (yes, really). And if someone’s moved to jig and reel a bit, just clear a space and show your appreciation. It’s Hogmanay, pretty much anything goes.
Finally, don’t forget to invite a tall, dark-haired man carrying a lump of coal as your ‘First Foot’. Scottish lore says, if that’s who steps into your house before anyone else right after midnight, you’ll have good luck for the rest of the year. Happy Hogmanay.