Celebrating Scotland: 10 Things I Love About My Country #7: Customs



Should Scotland remain part of the UK now that we have been removed from the EU despite voting against it?

When we had the vote for Scottish Independence I voted to remain part of the UK because I was happy being Scottish, part of the UK and part of the EU. Now that it has been decided for us/against us to leave the EU my thoughts about becoming an independent Scotland have changed.

I am so proud to say I live in Scotland when I think of all the great music this amazing country has produced. So #7 in this series is Customs.

There is only one custom that I can really start with, one which is probably known world-wide as we do hold the biggest party for it every single year…


This is the Scottish word for the last day of the year, according to the Gregorian Calendar, the 31st December. Hogmanay may be only one day but we Scots know how to party and we usually continue to celebrate right through the 1st January and possibly even on the 2nd as that is a Scottish bank holiday too.

Edinburgh holds the biggest Hogmanay party in the world and although I have sadly never been it does not stop me partying just as hard. Aberdeen used to have a street party but in recent years it has been restricted to just a firework display at the stroke of midnight. I always think they are the best fireworks I’ve ever seen but I’m usually so drunk by that time that someone waving a sparkler in front of me would probably seem to be like the most awesome thing ever.

A couple of years ago it actually snowed as the fireworks were going on and this was actually pretty amazing. I managed to “borrow” someone’s footage from YouTube and edited it and, well, I was happy with the results. The overlay of the ballerina may not be to everyone’s taste…

Aside from my tradition of getting drunk on Hogmanay this holiday has many other “sober” traditions. The famous song by Robert Burns, Auld Lang Syne, is usually always sang all over the world as the bells chime 12 but I have news for you world – you are all doing it wrong!

It is now common to sing this in a circle of linked arms that are crossed over one another as the clock strikes midnight for New Year’s Day, though it is only intended that participants link arms at the beginning of the final verse, coordinating with the lines of the song that contain the lyrics to do so. Typically, it is only in Scotland this practice is carried out correctly.

There, now get it right for this year – I will be checking.

A tradition that I vaguely remember and one that is certainly dying out is “first footing”. This basically means that the first person to set foot inside your house on the 1st January has to give you a gift. These gifts symbolise luck for the year ahead and used to be things like salt and coal – ahem, not a f****** gift! More recently though, gifts such as whisky, shortbread or fruitcake are thankfully more common place because quite honestly if you turned up to my house with some salt and a lump of coal you wouldn’t be getting your first foot in the door never mind the second one!

My best memory of New Year is from when I was young and all the family would go to my Gran’s house. There would be home-made soup, steak pie and alcohol (for the grown ups). We stayed for hours and every year the same stories were told of all the adult’s childhood memories. I miss hearing those stories…


Men in skirts. Basically that’s it and I’m sure many Scottish people would give you a Glasgow Kiss for saying that but it is what it is and I love them…


Any time I am attending a formal event such as a Wedding, Ball or Christmas party I will wear a kilt. For those not up on their kilt knowledge there are many different styles as well as tartans. I don’t own my own kilt and hire one when I need to. Another Scottish tradition is Clans and they all have  associated tartans. I am lucky enough to belong to Clan McPherson and one day I will get around to researching my family tree further but I’ve only just got around to sorting the trees out in my garden so that can wait. I used think the McPherson tartan was bogging but thanks to the internet I may have changed my mind.

What do I look like in a kilt? You be the judge…

Don’t we look smart..?

I have to give a special mention to the tartan I wore to a Ball last year – it’s called Rose Of Aberdeen and was designed by the company where I hire my kilts from, Millsom & Main as not only is it fabulous but the company itself is brilliant. The two guys in the shop provide the best service you could possibly wish for and I can’t recommend them enough!

What do I look like in a kilt by the end of the evening? Usually something like this…

Kilts should definitely come with hats…

Her’s tae kilts and having the breeze aboot yer balls!


Long, snake-like monster – no, not what’s under my kilt, there is another big legend in Scotland…

Loch Ness Monster

Does it exist? Does it not exist? Who cares! Nessie is the ultimate folk story and has probably kept many people in jobs for the past few decades. I finally visited Loch Ness!

(I secretly hope it does exist and wish someone would just drain the entire Loch and then we will know for sure. I remember watching a very interesting documentary when I was growing up called “Family Ness” and that proved that their is not just one monster but a whole family so come on – get the water drained so we can meet them…


Other brilliant traditions of Scotland that I have never attended include the Edinburgh Tattoo, the Edinburgh Fringe and T in The Park but a Scottish traditional event that I have been to many times involves lots of spinning around…


Try to picture lots of drunken Scottish people dancing with people they don’t really know, to a dance that they don’t really know. Imagine “Auld Lang Syne” on speed. That’s a Céilidh. They are sooo much fun. A live band, with an accordion and you don’t feel anymore like a proud Scot than when you are “Stripping The Willow”…

I usually get it wrong, try to pick up someone who isn’t even dancing and get shouted at by the “head” person in our team. Such fun!

Wow, I feel really Scottish now. I hope you liked this wee insight into what we get up to behind closed doors.

Are you proud of your country? Let me know about it in the comments below or tweet me @SteveSays2014 and don’t forget to take a look at other posts in this series.


28 thoughts on “Celebrating Scotland: 10 Things I Love About My Country #7: Customs

  1. I’m going to have to look for a Scottish band n my area so I can participate in a ceilidh. Also, there’s no where in the States where I can rent a kilt, so I’m going to buy one to wear to a steampunk festival later this summer. I’m a quarter Scottish. I’m from the Endsor Clan.


  2. Yay, now I kind of know what’s in store for me later: It’s the Ceilidh tonight!! It’s a bit like country dancing – I’ll be mint, I used to love doing dosee-dos!


  3. Sorry, was there something after the kilt pictures?

    Oh, yeah. Nessie. Of course the Loch Ness Monster exists. I have only been on it at least 100 times in my life.


    It is very sad the “Scottish costumes” the Busch Gardens staff have to wear in this section of the park. Think very bad golf clothes, regardless of supposed references to y’all’s history or heritage. Or anyone’s history or heritage for that matter.


  4. So much fun Steve, love your writing style. You need to get out more, even I’ve been to Edinburgh at hogmanay, & fab it was too ! Ps you both look great in your kilts, but it always struck me as odd that in the coldest part of GB the men wear them! Lol 😀



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