Hogmanay: You've probably heard or read the Scottish word and wondered whether it was some Gaelic way of saying you possessed many a porcine. No. The word, likely stemming from 16th century French, literally means a gift given at New Year's but what it means today is a broad term describing the annual custom of visiting friends and family just after midnight on New Year's Eve, with gifts in hand such as cake, salt, coal, and whisky. This tradition of first-footing, as it's known, has been going on for hundreds of years in Scotland, as Christmas wasn't even officially celebrated in Scotland until 1958 due to the Protestant Reformation. Hogmanay starts New Year's Eve and lasts two full days, with January 2nd a public holiday.

Instead of first-footing, most now head to celebrations in the major cities for all-night parties instead of home visits. In the small town of Stonehaven, wire balls are fashioned and lit with fire, producing fireballs that are paraded about by the locals before flinging them into the harbor. In South Queensferry, brave hearts throw themselves into the icy sea to greet January 1.

The Edinburgh Hogmanay is probably the most popular--indeed, one year it got into the Guinness Book of World Records for having the largest New Year's Eve crowd--and also the most diverse. Its Street Party will attract upwards of 200,000 revelers to sing, dance, drink, and watch one of the world's biggest fireworks displays. Or, you can celebrate here in the States by singing the traditional song from Hogmanay--Auld Lang Syne.

Photo by Chris Watt