Celebrating Scottish New Year: The History and Traditions of Hogmanay with Dr. Jenny Litster - Context Travel

Celebrating Scottish New Year: The History and Traditions of Hogmanay with Dr. Jenny Litster


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“A guid new year to ane an’ a; and monie may ye see!”

Hogmanay is the word used in Scotland for the last day of the year … the biggest date in the Scottish festive calendar. Bells ring out at midnight, people gather to dance in the streets, toasts are raised to near and absent friends, and visitors from around the world join in with a chorus of “Auld Lang Syne”. Grab a “cup o’ kindness” and cuddle up with a tall, dark stranger for this guide to the customs and culture of the Scottish New Year festival, Hogmanay.

In this seminar, we’ll look at where the word “Hogmanay” might come from. We’ll trace the origins of Hogmanay celebrations back to the ancient pagan festivities associated with Samhain (or Hallowe’en), with the winter solstice, the passing of the old year, and the birth of the new. We’ll also look at the influence of Viking fire festivals and Yule feasts on the “Daft Days”, twelve days of celebration immortalized in verse by eighteenth-century Edinburgh poet, Robert Fergusson. We’ll take some time to think about the role the Presbyterian Church played in the elevation of Hogmanay, not Christmas, as the principal winter celebration.

We’ll turn to local customs and festivities in modern Scotland, from the giant fireballs of Stonehaven, to the “Burning of the Clavie” in Burghead, to the boisterous street parties in Glasgow and Edinburgh. We talk about Hogmanay at home, and on television, with the nation’s favorite gloomy minister. And we’ll learn about “first footing” – being the first person to cross the threshold of a house after midnight. Which first-footer brings good luck and which bad? What gifts should you take and what should you say? What should you eat and what should you drink? And what happens “the morning after the nicht afore”?

Led by historian Jenny Litster, a resident of Edinburgh, participants will come away from this seminar knowing their black bun from their Bells, their Up Helly A’ from their Rev. I.M. Jolly, and what the words to Robert Burns’ “Auld Lang Syne” actually mean.

Born and raised in the Scottish Borders, Jenny moved to Edinburgh in the late 1980s to study History and English Literature. She later completed a PhD on the Scottish context of Canadian author L.M. Montgomery at the University of Edinburgh, where she also taught American History. Jenny worked in adult education research and policy at the Institute of Education, London for over a decade, living in Edinburgh and travelling regularly to Europe. Her main interests lie in Scottish literature, culture and folklore and in children’s books. She has two daughters.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

Customer Reviews

Based on 10 reviews
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(10)
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D
D.
Real fun and educational

This was a wonderful presentation. Dr. Lister managed to wonderfully convey the festive spirit of Hogmanay in a year of lockdown. This history behind the traditions of this festival are thoroughly interesting. And this lecture explained the history of several traditions of Winter. I learned a great deal.

P
P.
Delightful with enduring lessons

Dr Listster's description of Hogmanay had many details and insights from her personal experience as well as the researched history of the origins and practices over the centuries and decades. The personal touch made this seminar particularly accessable and on-point, as if you had a Scottish friend who was talking to you. A great learning experience with take aways that will be lasting. As an example, the explanation of "Auld Lang Syne" was particularly moving and poignant.

K
K.S.
Informative, highly entertaining, as always

Well done - makes me all the more eager to visit Scotland again

N
N.

Very enjoyable presentation -- and festive! This "coorie in" is just what was needed as 2020 comes to a close. Thanks, Jenny!

J
J.
Happy New Year when it comes!

Absolutely incredible. Great history of both origins and traditions of New Years celebrations, presented in a fun and engaging way. I would absolutely recommend this seminar and Dr. Jenny Litster to friends and family.

Customer Reviews

Based on 10 reviews
100%
(10)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
D
D.
Real fun and educational

This was a wonderful presentation. Dr. Lister managed to wonderfully convey the festive spirit of Hogmanay in a year of lockdown. This history behind the traditions of this festival are thoroughly interesting. And this lecture explained the history of several traditions of Winter. I learned a great deal.

P
P.
Delightful with enduring lessons

Dr Listster's description of Hogmanay had many details and insights from her personal experience as well as the researched history of the origins and practices over the centuries and decades. The personal touch made this seminar particularly accessable and on-point, as if you had a Scottish friend who was talking to you. A great learning experience with take aways that will be lasting. As an example, the explanation of "Auld Lang Syne" was particularly moving and poignant.

K
K.S.
Informative, highly entertaining, as always

Well done - makes me all the more eager to visit Scotland again

N
N.

Very enjoyable presentation -- and festive! This "coorie in" is just what was needed as 2020 comes to a close. Thanks, Jenny!

J
J.
Happy New Year when it comes!

Absolutely incredible. Great history of both origins and traditions of New Years celebrations, presented in a fun and engaging way. I would absolutely recommend this seminar and Dr. Jenny Litster to friends and family.