Looking to Celebrate New Year’s the Scottish Way? A Hogmanay Explainer.

Pyrotechnics, live music and limited-edition whisky

Members of of the public take part in a torchlight procession along the Royal Mile during Edinburgh Hogmanay celebrations.
Andrew Milligan/PA Images via Getty Images

What images do you normally associate with New Year’s Eve? For some, it might involve the ball drop in Times Square; for others, a cozy gathering with family and friends. And then there’s the Scottish tradition of Hogmanay, which — from a vantage point across the Atlantic — appears to involve lots of fire, lots of whisky and (at least this year) an appearance by the Pet Shop Boys.

So if you’re looking to explore a slightly different form of revelry this year, here’s a quick overview of all things Hogmanay.

What’s the meaning of Hogmanay?
It’s the Scots word meaning the last day of the year. The Scots Language Centre has a good overview of the holiday, which dates the celebration’s origin back to the 16th century. Traditionally, people burn things.

Does this relate to any other holidays?
Some historians have connected the rise in popularity of Hogmanay to the suppression of more, shall we say, bacchanalian Christmas celebrations in medieval Scotland.

How many people show up to celebrate?
At the last celebration before the pandemic, 70,000 people showed up in Edinburgh to take part in the festivities. As The Guardian reported at the time, this was not a universally welcomed occasion, with a private company controlling access to residents’ homes within the area where the revelry was held.

This year’s event should be a bit smaller, with the BBC estimating that 30,000 will attend.

Have any distilleries embraced the occasion?
They sure have! Bottles of the Islay distillery Bunnahabhain’s Auld Acquaintance were made to mark the occasion of Hogmanay — with bottles of the 1968 34-year-old now selling for over $3,000 each. The distillery has alluded to the name with a new annual release, New Acquaintance. The latest iteration is the New Acquaintance 2022 Release: Double Wood, which blends “36 year old whisky finished in Canasta casks and 32 year old whisky finished in Virgin Oak casks.” The distillery’s website lists a retail price of $720 per bottle.

The Macallan has also released a Hogmanay-themed whisky. In their case, it’s A Night On Earth in Scotland, created in conjunction with artist Erica Dorn. It retails for $600 per bottle, according to the distillery’s website.

Are there any toasts?
If you’re looking for the full experience, there are a few to choose from. We’re keen on “long may your chimney burn,” ourselves.


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