Whilst the unique family traditions followed at New Year vary as with other places in the World, there are a number of key themes followed in the UK.
New Year’s Eve/Hogmanay
- December 31st is known as Hogmanay in Scotland and New Year’s Eve in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is the last day of the year, according to the Gregorian calendar, commonly used in modern times.
- Throughout the UK, the New Year is often launched with a party – either at home with family and friends or at a gathering in local pubs and clubs. Festivities begin on New Year’s Eve and build up to midnight.
- Just before midnight, people turn on a radio or television for the countdown of the last few minutes of the old year. Indeed, one of the most widely known symbols of New Year’s Eve in the UK is the image of the Clock Tower at the Palace of Westminster in London, counting down the last minutes of the old year. The first chimes of Big Ben (the bell housed in the Clock Tower) at midnight are broadcast live on radio and television. This is followed by a spectacular fireworks performance, usually centred on the London Eye, which is claimed to be the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe.
- At the stroke of midnight, people often hug and kiss each other (even strangers) and many start singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’, a poem written by Scottish poet Robert Burns.
Getting Around On New Year’s Eve
- Public transport systems may run to their usual schedule, but they may have a reduced service or close down totally in the late afternoon or evening. It is worth checking the arrangements in your own area to ensure you are not left stranded.
- In the bigger towns and cities, public transport services resume services around midnight to enable people attending large scale events to return home safely. Entrance to pubs, clubs and discos may be by invitation or a pre-booked ticket only. Major train and bus stations may be congested as many young people travel to spend New Year’s Eve and Day with friends.
New Year’s Luck
- Tradition has it that the first person over the threshold on New Year’s Day will dictate the luck brought to the household in the coming year. This is known as First Footing. At midnight on December 31, particularly in Scotland and Northern Ireland, ‘first footers’ step over the threshold bringing the New Year’s luck. The first footer usually brings a piece of coal, a loaf of bread and a bottle of whisky. On entering he must place the fuel on the fire, put the loaf on the table and pour a glass of whisky for the head of the house, all normally without speaking or being spoken to until he wishes everyone “A Guid New Year tae Ane an’ Aw” (A Good New Year to One and All). He must enter by the front door and leave by the back.
- In Wales the back door is opened to release the Old Year at the first stroke of midnight. It is then locked up to ‘keep the luck in’ and at the last stroke the New Year is let in at the front door.
New Year’s Day Parade
- 1st January 2013 will be the 27th Anniversary of the New Year’s Day Parade in London. This year, it starts at 11.45am on Piccadilly (at the junction with Berkeley Street outside the Ritz Hotel) and finishes around 3pm at Parliament Street. The Parade route is – Piccadilly, Piccadilly Circus, Lower Regent Street, Waterloo Place, Pall Mall, Cockspur Street, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall and Parliament Street.
- The 2013 Parade will be filled with marching bands, cheerleaders, clowns, acrobats, kites and much more! The stars of the show will be the 33 stunning London Borough entries from across the Capital. More than 10,000 performers representing 20 countries worldwide will assemble, and more than half a million are expected to pack London’s famous streets to see this fantastic spectacular as it weaves its way along the 2 mile route.
- If you don’t think you’ll be able to make it, 3 hours of Live Satellite Coverage will be beamed around the world. Major broadcasters such as the BBC, CNN, Fox news, SKY and CBS are expected to cover the event.
- December 31 is not a public holiday. However, schools are closed for the Christmas holidays and many people have a day off work or leave earlier than usual. Stores and post offices are generally open, but may close earlier than usual.
- In Scotland, the Hogmanay celebrations may last for one or two more days, as both January 1 and 2 are bank holidays. In the rest of the United Kingdom, only January 1 is a bank holiday.
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