Sweeping Out the Old Year

Celebrating the new year and marking the end of the old year is nothing new, and though there are many traditions such as singing Auld Lang Syne (badly) at midnight that you’ll be familiar with, there are others that you may not have heard of.

Traditions and customs take place before and after midnight on NYE

For centuries, the tradition of ‘first footing’ has taken place across the UK.  Essentially this revolves around making sure that the first person to enter your house after midnight brings good luck for the coming year; so don’t go letting any undesirables like Donald Trump in before your lovely nan.  In some places, there are strict rules about the ‘first footer’.  They may be required to have dark hair, or dark skin, or to be married.  Some ‘first footers’ had to carry out tasks such as poking the fire, or even had to bring gifts like a loaf of bread.  It can all get very complicated!  I’d say you’re in for a good year if Johnny Depp turns up on your doorstep at midnight carrying a cut-loaf from the Co-Op…

I like the tradition of sweeping out the old year to welcome in the new year.  People around Britain have done this for centuries, with people even buying a new broom to literally sweep out the dust and dirt of the dying year.  It was also seen as important to sweep out the fire and thoroughly clean the whole house.  Juniper would be burnt around the house, before the doors and windows were flung open to allow in the freshness of the new year air.

edinburgh hogmanay
Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh

And what of the Hogmanay celebrations that take place in Scotland each year?  It may sound like something out of Harry Potter, but Hogmanay can be linked to Pagan traditions around fire and light during the dark winter months.  It was a kind of mega winter festival where people lit bonfires, sang, danced and exchanged presents, to stop them feeling so miserable and cold in the days before central heating.  Nowadays, Hogmanay has become a huge party in Scotland’s cities.  Fireworks and bagpipes welcome in the new year in style!  And across Britain, people hug and kiss family, friends and strangers (you need to watch that!) at midnight.


You’ll notice that at this time of year, lots of grown ups – and some children – make resolutions for the new year.  Often these involve eating healthily, spending more time with family or going to the gym (most of which go out of the window by 8th January!). What will your resolutions be for 2016?


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