New Year’s Eve is a world-wide celebration. Across the globe, people will welcome the coming year with their own unique traditions, and the people of Scotland are no exception. On December 31, Scotland celebrates Hogmanay with historic rituals and customs. To ensure good luck, many households will be busy cleaning their home and clearing their debts. But two other customs are directly tied to our favorite rebel spirit, whiskey.
The first tradition, familiar to many around the world, is the way to celebrate in true Scottish fashion. Once the clock strikes midnight, friends and family gather around to sing a rousing rendition of Robert Burns’ poem Auld Lang Syne. Amid this well-known tune, singers share fellowship and a drink to ring in the year.
You may recognize the poet’s name from our film I, Whiskey: The Human Spirit. The end of the film features a quote by Burns, who famously remarked that (using the traditional Scots spelling) “freedom and whisky go together.” Indeed they do, but whiskey is also known for bringing people together to celebrate and connect.
A second Hogmanay tradition, to guarantee good fortune in the coming year, is called “First-footing.” The tradition holds that the first foot, or first person, to step into one’s house on New Year’s Day brings with them good luck for the coming year. Whiskey is also key to this tradition because, according to custom, it will be a prosperous year if the first foot brings with them symbolic gifts, such as a coin, bread, salt, coal, and whiskey. Respectively, these gifts symbolize financial prosperity, food, flavor, warmth, and good cheer. It is the gift of whiskey that wishes the family happiness in the year to come.
Whiskey’s role in this holiday is only a small part of the spirit’s long tradition and history, and with each new batch its legend increases. It has deep Scottish and Irish roots, but a robust American history as well. No story of this spirit is complete, however, without remembering the importance of a free and open marketplace for its creation, distribution, and enjoyment. To learn more about whiskey and its story of community and connection, watch I, Whiskey here.