If Christmas is seen as a children's feast day then New Year is very much the adult version, giving the grown ups a chance to revel in some sociable merrymaking and community games. Traditions vary from region to region with the Shetland tradition of Up Helly Aa taking place on the last Tuesday of January, to the ball game (The Kirkwall Ba') played in Orkney's capital, on New Year's Day between the Uppies and Doonies. John Robertson's The Kirkwall Ba: from the Water to the Wall is the book to have on this distinctive island pastime. In Stonehaven, on the East Coast of Scotland, the town is 'cleansed' in preparation for the new year by a procession of flaming torches and swinging fireballs - stand well back! In the Borders, Biggar hosts a giant bonfire - one in the 1940s burned for five days.
F.Marian McNeill's The Silver Bough: Calendar of Scottish National Festivals - Halloween to Yule v. 3 is the classic work on the traditions and customs kept around this time. Margaret Bennett's award-winning Scottish Customs From the Cradle to the Grave, a very readable compendium of traditions, is well worth a look too.
These days, traditions like first footing are dying out, even in rural areas such as the Western Isles. There, people used to celebrate New Year with some Halloween-type guising where children went round the houses and performed songs or stories before being handed a treacle scone. Bliadhna Mhath Ur (Happy New Year) is the greeting in Gaelic.
Edinburgh prides itself on hosting the biggest Hogmanay celebrations in the world with over 250,000 people crowding into the city centre to hear bands and the bells; Glasgow brings in a respectable 100,000 visitors to George Square to celebrate in the same way. And if the Scottish weather means you'd rather stay indoors and watch the telly (in 2003 the Edinburgh celebrations were cancelled because of dangerously high winds), Rikki Fulton's The Rev I.M. Jolly & Friends: The Very Best of Last Call remembers the famous Hogmanay sketches of 'Scotch and Wry', while Tony Roper's The Steamie is the novelisation of the hit play set on Hogmanay in 1950s Glasgow.
For those interested in hosting their own version of the celebrations, The Hogmanay Companion, soon to be reprinted, by Hugh Douglas tells you everything you need to know about the traditions associated with Hogmanay: the origins of the name, the food and drink consumed, first foot traditions etc while Catherine Brown's Classic Scots Cookery; Sue Lawrence's Scots Cooking: The best Traditional and Contemporary Scottish Recipes and F. Marian McNeill's The Scots Kitchen will help you make your own Black Bun, Clootie Dumpling and Shortbread, traditional accompaniments to the obligatory drams of whisky.
For the gen on whisky (uisge beatha in Gaelic, translated as the water of life), try the sublimely well-written books by Charles MacLean such as MacLean's Miscellany of Whisky - we have a comprehensive list of Scottish Whisky titles available on BooksfromScotland.com.
What better way to work off the food and booze than with a ceilidh? If your steps are a little rusty, The Official Textbook of the Board of Highland Dancing is an illustrated guide to the most popular Highland dances, and Scottish Ceilidh Dancing by David & Mary Ewart covers The Dashing White Sergeant, the The Gay Gordon, The Lucky Seven and 50 other dances.
- Add to BasketHaggis, Hogmanay And Halloween - - Paperback
This is a handy, pocket-sized guide to the many varied Scottish celebrations and festivals, both famous and lesser-known, from the Orkneys in the north to the Scottish borders in the south. Read all about the weird and wacky customs that surround these festivals!
- Add to BasketThe Kirkwall Ba': From The Water To The Wall - - Hardback
'The Kirkwall Ba' is a much revised and expanded edition of John Robertson's classic book 'Uppies and Doonies'. It is an exhaustive enquiry into the origin and history of the mass football game in Britain.
- Add to BasketMacLean's Miscellany Of Whisky - - Hardback
Charles MacLean explains how whisky has changed over the last 100 years, what gives it its beautiful amber colour, how its simple ingredients come together to produce such a diversity of flavours, what changes have taken place in distilling and bottling, how Scotch can be best enjoyed, and much more.
- Add to BasketThe Rev I.M. Jolly & Friends: The Very Best Of Last Call - - Hardback
This tribute to Rikki Fulton brings together the transcripts of the 'Late Call' sketches that were a regular part of the long-running annual Hogmanay comedy show 'Scotch and Wry'.
Sue Lawrence has collected together over 120 of the best regional recipes, using only the freshest ingredients such as fish, beef, lamb or venison. The text is interspersed with fascinating stories about the origins of the dishes.
- Add to BasketThe Scots Kitchen: Its Traditions And Lore With Old-Time Recipes - - Hardback
F. Marian McNeill was a journalist and writer with a deep love and knowledge of Scots language, lore and traditions. This text represents her account of eating and drinking in Scotland through the ages, including a selection of traditional recipes.
- Add to BasketScottish Customs: From The Cradle To The Grave - - Paperback
In 'Scottish Customs', selected texts along with material from recorded interviews with tradition bearers give a detailed picture of social behaviour over four centuries in Scotland.
- Add to BasketThe Steamie: A Novel - - Paperback
When it first opened in 1987, 'The Steamie' took the theatrical world by storm. Set during the 1950s, the play takes place on Hogmanay in a Glasgow public wash house. This novel delves further into the lives of Doreen, Magrit, Mrs Culfeathers and Dolly.