New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve

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.

Is New Year's Eve a Public Holiday?

New Year's Eve is not a public holiday. Businesses have normal opening hours.

What Do People Do?

A lot of people spend most of December 31st quietly. They may spend time outdoors, reading the reviews of the last year in newspapers or resting in preparation for the New Year's Eve parties that begin in the late afternoon or evening.

People who host parties may spend a large part of the day preparing food and arranging drinks. In the evening, New Year's Eve parties usually go on for many hours, well beyond midnight. Some, particularly young people, may choose to spend the evening in pubs, clubs or discos.

Just before midnight, people turn on a radio or television to see the countdown of the last few minutes of the old year and the display of fireworks just after midnight. At this point, people often hug and kiss each other, even strangers, and many start singing Auld Lang Syne, a poem written by Scottish poet Robert Burns.

In Scotland, the Hogmanay celebrations may last for one or two more days, as both January 1st and 2nd are bank holidays.

In the rest of the United Kingdom, only January 1st is a bank holiday.

In Scotland and some parts of northern England, people may spend the last few hours of December 31st preparing to be or receive first-footers. The first person to cross the threshold (umbral) of a house after the start of the new year is a first-footer. First-footers are usually men and in different areas have different physical characteristics, such as blond or dark hair, bring different kinds of luck to the household in the coming year. They bring gifts, such as whiskey, shortbread, coal and fruit cake, which are then shared among all of the guests.

Public Life

December 31st 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. 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.

In some big 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.


Midwinter celebrations have been held by the people of the British Isles since ancient times. These often included parties, special food and large fires to "tempt" the Sun to return. After the introduction of Christianity, some aspects of these were included in celebrating Jesus' birth at Christmas. However, this was resisted by the Scottish Presbyterian church. For this reason, Hogmanay was the main winter festival in Scotland until the 1970s. Both Christmas and Hogmanay are now celebrated in Scotland.


One of the most widely known symbols of New Year's Eve 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, in the new year are broadcast live on radio and television. This is followed by a spectacular fireworks performance, often centered on the London Eye.

New Year's Eve - London's 2021 fireworks.mp4

New Year's Eve - London's 2021 fireworks