Celebrating New Years in the UK

New Years Eve is celebrated on 31st December in many countries across the globe, including in the UK. For many, it is one of the biggest party nights of the year with events held in homes, pubs, bars and venues nationwide. Lots of people prefer to host parties at home, avoiding the crowds and costs of official parties, where canapés and champagne are served to toast in the New Year. Modern celebrations originate from Midwinter celebrations which were held across the British Isles since ancient times. These parties involved food and the lighting of big fires to tempt the sun to return.

Like many other cities, London hosts a spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks display. Every year, 250,000 people gather along the banks of the River Thames to see the fireworks launched from the London Eye, Big Ben and rafts on the river, with the capital city’s skyline providing a stunning backdrop to the display. The image of Big Ben chiming at midnight has become synonymous with the New Year celebration and is televised across the world.

Wherever they are, people turn on a radio or television just before midnight to see the countdown of the last few minutes of the old year.  As the clock strikes midnight, people often hug and kiss each other (even strangers) and it is traditional to sing Auld Lang Syne. This is a Scottish poem written by Robert Burns sung along to the tune of a traditional folk song, which sees everyone cross their arms over each other before joining hands, and dancing.

Check out this YouTube video of Auld Lang Syne:

In Wales, Calennig is celebrated over New Year which includes a parade through Cardiff and the ancient custom of giving gifts and money on New Year’s morning, surviving to this day in the form of giving bread and cheese. In Scotland (where New Years is known as Hogmanay) and some parts of Northern England, people spend the last few hours of 31st December preparing to be or receive first-footers. A first-footer is the first person to cross the entrance of a home after the start of the New Year. They traditionally bring gifts to bring luck, such as whiskey, shortbread, coal and fruit cake which are shared amongst the guests. The focus of Hogmanay, one of the world’s most famous New Year celebrations, are in Edinburgh which hosts a huge street party along Princes Street, with  cannon fire  at Edinburgh Castle marking midnight, followed by a large fireworks display. Some smaller towns in Scotland like Stonehaven hold Fireball Festivals beginning at midnight, where giant balls of fire are swung by participants in a parade down the High Street, attracting visitors from all over the world.

Celebrations held across the UK often go on the early hours of New Year’s Day morning. The 1st January is a public holiday across the country (with a second public holiday on the 2nd January for Scotland) which allows people to recover from the late night. Many spend the day with family and friends, sometimes enjoying big roast dinner. Others visit the local high street to take advantage of the January sales (which now tend to start on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas Day) to grab a bargain. On New Year’s Day, a million spectators line the streets to watch the London parade, the biggest New Year’s Day event of its kind, honouring people from all the different boroughs in the city.

At this time of year, some people choose to make a New Year’s resolution, which is a promise that you make to yourself to stop doing something bad, or start doing something good, on the first day of the year. This might be joining a gym to get fit, or to quit smoking.

What New Year’s resolution will you be making this year?

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