Where has 2016 gone? It seems like just yesterday we were ringing in the New Year, and pretty soon we’ll be doing it all over again.
Whether you plan on partying in Preston, celebrating in Cardiff or getting glammed up in Glasgow, there are some traditions you won’t be able to escape. Here, we explain the stories behind some of the UK’s weird and wonderful New Year traditions.
Auld Lang Syne
Wherever you’re celebrating this year, chances are your New Year revelry will include singing Auld Lang Syne when the clock strikes midnight. Penned by Scottish writer Robert Burns in 1788, the lyrics were put to a traditional tune after Burns’ death and quickly became an international anthem.
While there are many interpretations of the lyrics, it’s widely considered to be a song of reunion and reconciliation, encouraging us to reflect on times past and move forward together.
In the final verse, the song states: "And there's a hand, my trusty fiere!/And gie's a hand o' thine!". At this point, it’s traditional to cross hands. Although many do this all the way through the song, tradition dictates that it should only happen after the line.
If you’re celebrating New Year in Scotland or Northern England, don’t forget about the first-foot tradition. This is the belief that the first person to enter the home on New Year’s Day will be the bringer of good luck for the coming year.
While it sounds like a simple tradition, there are actually lots of rules to follow! The first-footer must not be in the house at the stroke of midnight, and you’ll also need to consider who the first-footer will be. Traditionally, tall, dark-haired men are said to be the luckiest, while females and fair-haired men are believed to be unlucky in some areas of the UK.
The first-footer is expected to bring a gift too, like a coin for financial prosperity, bread for food, salt for flavour, coal for warmth or a drink for cheer.
New Year kiss
What is New Year without a kiss at midnight? Although the tradition is common, there are a number of different beliefs around it. Some believe that the person we kiss at midnight will set the tone for the rest of the year.
Others believe that kissing a loved one at midnight will strengthen the relationship you have in the New Year. Some people also attribute the tradition to the masked balls that take place on New Year’s Eve in Europe. The masks represent the evil spirits from the past year, with the kiss acting as purification once the mask is removed.
Who knew the midnight kiss could be so significant?!
New Year in Wales is celebrated with Calennig, a tradition which takes place on New Year’s Day. In the past, children would call from door-to-door bearing good wishes for the household for the year ahead. They would sing songs and carry skewered apples, with corn and sprigs of evergreen. In return, they would receive a Calennig, or a New Year’s gift. This would usually be money or food. This tradition is still followed in some areas of Wales
If you’d prefer to heat things up this year, head to Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire, Scotland and experience the fireball parade. The free event dates back over 100 years and sees a parade of individuals swinging fireballs above their heads. It’s a real sight to behold — but why do they do it?
The parade is traditionally a cleansing ritual, with the flames said to burn away bad spirits from the previous year, helping to purify the New Year.