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British Culture, British Customs and British Traditions

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This section is in advanced English and is only intended to be a guide, not to be taken too seriously!



England celebrates the New Year from the evening of December 31st into January 1st. Traditionally it is not as widely celebrated as Christmas, but the year 2000 saw a large change. For instance people did not used to celebrate New Year with fireworks (they were reserved for Bonfire Night), but last year and this all across England people were setting off fireworks on the stroke of midnight.

More traditionally, on the stroke of midnight, people open the back door (to let the old year out) and ask the first dark haired man to be seen to come through the front door carrying salt, coal and bread. This means that the following year everyone in the house will have enough to eat (bread), enough money (salt) and be warm enough (coal).


In Scotland they always seem to celebrate New Year better than anywhere else. The celebration of New Year's Eve is called "Hogmanay". The word Hogmanay comes from a kind of oat cake that was traditionally given to children on New Year's Eve.

In Edinburgh the celebrations always include a massive party from Prince's Street to the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle. Unfortunately due to overcrowding in the past the event is now ticket only.

On New Year's Day (actually from the stroke of midnight) the tradition of first footing is observed. This is because the first person to set foot in a residence in a New Year is thought to profoundly affect the fortunes of everyone who lives there. Generally strangers are thought to bring good luck.

Depending on the area, it may be better to have a dark-haired or fair-haired stranger set foot in the house, but it does mean Scotland is a very welcoming place for strangers at New Year!


New Year's Eve is called "Nos Galan" in Welsh, and whilst they also believe in letting out the old year and letting in the newif the first visitor in the New Year is a woman and a man opens the door it's considered bad luck. In addition, if the first man to cross the threshold in the New Year is a red head, that is also bad luck.

People in Wales also believe that you should pay off all debts before the New Year begins. Tradition states that ending a year in debt means a whole new year of debt.

On New Year's Day "Dydd Calan" in Wales the children get up early to visit their neighbors and sing songs. They are given coins, mince pies, apples and other sweets for singing. This stops at midday.

it can also depend on where you live as to when you celebrate New Year in Wales.  Some areas still celebrate Dydd Calan on January 12th.

New Year's News

2013 / 2014
2012 / 2013
2011 / 2012
2010 / 2011
2009 / 2010
2008 / 2009
2007 / 2008
2006 / 2007
2005 / 2006
2004 / 2005

British Culture