January in Scotland

January 2011 and another year comes to a close.  New Years day is the oldest celebrated holiday, reported to go back some 4000 years and first celebrated in ancient Babylon to mark the new moon after the Vernal Equinox. January was named after the mythical two headed god; Janus, one head looking back in time and the other looking forward to the future.

New years day is not celebrated on the same day throughout the world, this is because some countries previously measuring a year by dividing time into days, months and years with some judging a year by the movement of the moon and others using the position of the sun, the Chinese for example celebrate New Year between January 17th and February 19th depending on the day of the new full moon, The Tibetan new year can fall between January and March, so don’t be surprised if this article suddenly ends up being published some time in July!

There is however only one nation that truly knows how to celebrate New Year, or should we say “Hogmanay” yes the Scots.  At the strike of midnight the celebrations start by singing "Auld Lang Syne" a traditional song of Robert Burns first published in 1788, although the tune itself was around some 80 years before.


Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne
For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup o kindness yet, for auld lang syne."

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
and surely I’ll buy mine !
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Full text version


Scotland again breaks out the celebrations on the birthday of Robert Burns on January 25th, known as Burns Night.  Hogmanay celebrations in Scotland last for around four days and attracts tourists and visitors from around the world to take part in street parties, concerts and numerous events, mostly involving large consumptions of alcohol.

Hogmanay has many traditions from the first visitor to your house being a dark male that brings with him symbolic pieces of coal, shortbread, salt, black bun and a wee dram of whisky, this is a tradition to bring good luck to the household for the remainder of the year, although I’m guessing if he doesn’t bring the whisky he doesn’t get in!

In some areas of the Highlands, such as the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides young men wear sheepskins and carry a sack and move through the villages reciting a Gaelic rhyme but the biggest and most spectacular of all celebrations take place in and around Edinburgh with torchlight street processions followed by one of the largest firework displays in the UK. The spectacular Son et Lumiére light and firework display, signals the beginning of the four day Edinburgh’s Hogmanay festival.

It is worth noting that Scotland gets an extra national holiday over the rest of the UK, January the 2nd this gives them a little more time to recover from all very intense revelry and merry-making.

It is not widely known throughout the world but Christmas was not celebrated and was virtually banned in Scotland for around 400 years, from 1647 to the not so long ago 1950s, strangely enough it was banned on religious grounds due to Christianity views held in Scotland at the time, this meant that many Scots had to work over Christmas and their winter solstice holiday was therefore at New Year when family and friends gathered for a party and exchange presents, especially for the children, which came to be called hogmanay.

Another Scottish January event well worth a mention and one that changed our lives forever happened on January 26 1926 when John Logie Baird, a Scottish engineer transmitted the first faint television images, witnessed by 50 scientists in an attic room in central London.  In 1927, his television was demonstrated over 438 miles of telephone line between London and Glasgow. John Logie Baird then formed the Baird Television Development Company. (BTDC) In 1928 and achieved the first even transatlantic television transmission between London and New York and the first transmission to a ship in the mid-Atlantic. Love it or hate it, the one eyed monster was born.

Additional resources relating to this article:

John Logie Baird Official BBC site

Robert Burns Official site

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