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Age Old New Years Traditions

newe years eve celebration

We all have our own way to celebrate The New Year, some prefer a quiet night in, whilst others have parties or celebrate in a different part of the world. 

There are some ways that people ring in the New Year in the UK, that are age old traditions that are still followed today.

Singing Auld Lang Syne

On 31 December, as the clock strikes 12, people link arms and attempt to merrily mumble along to Auld Lang Syne, without shedding a nostalgic tear. 

This old Scottish folk song the words to which few people know beyond the first line was adapted by Robert Burns in 1788 after he heard it sung by an old Scotsman. 

It reminisces about the good, old days and old friendships, suggesting they can be rekindled with kindness and a goodwill drink and serves as a reminder to contact your loved ones or invite them in for a drink. 

The anthem caught on as a new year tradition after Canadian-born bandleader Guy Lombardo got his orchestra to play it on his US TV and radio show every new year from 1929 to 1977.

Black Rabbits, White Rabbits

As the clock is about to strike midnight on New Year’s eve, the tradition in Yorkshire dictates that one should say “black rabbits, black rabbits, black rabbits”, and then, as the clock chimes 12, say “white rabbits, white rabbits, white rabbits”. This is to bring good luck. 


hogmanay Scotland

The Scots welcome the new year, “Hogmanay”, with celebrations that start on 31 December and can go on for another two days, hence why 2 January is a national Scottish holiday. 

It is thought Hogmanay celebrations grew in popularity when the Vikings invaded Scotland and fires were lit to ward off evil spirits and celebrate the winter solstice. 

Around 1583, the celebration of Christmas was discouraged by the Church of Scotland, so New Year became a much bigger thing. 


These days, a great party ensues, with fire festivals and fireworks playing a part; the idea is that fire signifies the power of the sun to purify and consume evil spirits. 

Other local superstitions include the ritual of cleaning your house and clearing any debts you may have before midnight on 31 December, and first footing, see below. 

Best Foot First

first footing

According to the Scottish superstition of first-footing, the first person to enter a household in the new year will dictate its fortunes for that year. A “lucky” first-footer is a dark-haired male who arrives bearing a coin or some salt, a lump of coal, piece of bread and a drink. 

These items are said to represent financial prosperity, warmth, food and good cheer. Dark-haired males are preferred because back when the Vikings invaded, the arrival of anonymous fair-haired men on your doorstep would have signalled trouble. 

Today, people celebrate first-footing by visiting each other’s homes after midnight, to share. 



“Calennig” in Welsh means New Year’s gift, and a decorative tabletop structure known as a calennig apple is sometimes prepared by children in the run-up to the 31st December. 

An apple is studded with cloves and sprigs of evergreen, and propped up by a tripod of twigs. This becomes a windowsill or mantelpiece decoration and is considered a symbol of luck for the home. 

On New Year’s day, children call from door to door with the calennig apple in their hands, singing and bearing good wishes for their neighbours in return for small gifts of food and money.

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