Why not forget the overpriced bars and clubs, watching fireworks on TV and suffering a badly sung Auld Lang Syne, and bring in the New Year by doing something a bit different? And if you’re stuck for ideas, why not read our pick of the more quirky ways to celebrate…
Stonehaven Fireballs light up the local High Street every New Year, with a parade of around 45 people swinging fireballs around their heads. This unusual event began in the Aberdeenshire town in the early 1900s when the fireballs were originally swung by the men of the fishing community.
The fireballs are made from balls of chicken wire filled with wood, coal and fir cones before being doused in paraffin and attached to a wire ready for swinging.
There are several explanations as to why people began swinging fireballs. One theory is that they were Pagan sun charms to ensure plenty of sunshine for the year to come. Another theory is that they were meant to destroy all harmful influences.
Entertainment usually begins at around 11pm with pipe bands and drummers, and the parade itself begins just after the Town House bell strikes midnight; making its way along the High Street, and ending at the Harbour where the fireballs are thrown into the sea. The parade lasts about half an hour and ends with a firework display.
If you fancy heading along, it’s best to arrive by 10.30pm in order to find a good viewing spot, and remember to wrap up warm!
As it hits midnight in Comrie, in the Scottish highlands, wooden torches known as ‘Flambeaux’ are lit and paraded through the village.
This is another event which is thought to have begun to help ward off evil spirits. The event hasn’t changed much over the years, and today the torch lit parade is led by a pipe band and followed by a topical fancy dress parade. At the end of the parade the torches are thrown into the River Earn in order to ‘cast out the spirits’.
The village also hosts a children’s fancy dress parade and a fireworks display earlier in the evening, making it a great family event.
Tar Bar’l Ceremony
Continuing with the fiery theme, the town of Allendale in Northumberland celebrates their New Year with a unique Tar Bar’l Ceremony. The celebration features a lively procession through the streets at midnight, with flaming tar barrels and a brass band.
The procession is made up of 45 barrel carriers, known as ‘guisers’, all wearing special costumes. The guisers carry whiskey barrels, filled with burning hot tar, through the streets of Allendale to the town centre.
The barrels are then used to ignite a ceremonial bonfire, known as the ‘Baal Fire’, and as the fire is ignited everyone shouts “Be damned to he who throws last”.
Allendale’s Tar Barrel or Tar Bar’l Ceremony dates back to 1858, but its origins are unclear. It is thought by some to be of Pagan origin, and by some to be from carol singers who used the barrels to light their way instead of candles. However it started, it certainly makes for a lively alternative to fireworks!
Flamborough Fire Fesival
Flamborough in Yorkshire really know how to celebrate the New Year as they combine fireballs, a torchlit procession, Viking Longship burning and fireworks together into one big festival.
The Viking Longship is built by locals for the event, where it’s paraded and then burnt using the flaming torches carried by the ‘Vikings’. Flamborough’s fireballs are similar to Stonehaven’s version, and are meant to clear away old spirits and bring good luck to the community. The procession features around 2,000 Vikings carrying the flaming torches, along with the ship and fireballs.
The festival is free to children and those who join in by dressing as a Viking!
Edinburgh is world-renowned for its New Year, or Hogmanay celebrations, as the city comes alive with concerts, street parties, fireworks and torchlit processions. However, one of the more unusual celebrations is the Loony Dook.
Since 1987 a large amount of wacky people have taken an annual plunge in the River Forth, near the famous bridge. Mainly donned in fancy dress, people come from all over to take part in this quirky celebration.
The Loony Dook first began when two men in the bar of The Moorings decided to do something different to celebrate the New Year (and perhaps clear their hangovers at the same time). Some of the locals decided to join in and so the crazy custom was born.
Today there are usually around 1,000 brave participants, as well as hundreds of onlookers. It all kicks off with the Dookers Parade along the High Street just after midday, before the participants head down to the beach, and the ‘Dooking’ area, to take the plunge. You can cheer the Dookers on along Queensferry High Street, the pier and beach, but arrive early to get a good viewing spot.
Mapleton Bridge Jump
Fancy something equally bracing, but requiring a lot more courage? Then head on over to Mapleton in Derbyshire for a festive jump.
This local tradition sees hardy types jumping from Okeover Bridge into the chilly water below. The unofficial event raises money for charity and there is usually an opportunity to have a charitable tot of rum before taking the plunge.
There are roped off areas for the more sensible spectators to watch as brave/silly souls fling themselves from the top of the bridge.
The Ba’ street ball game
The Ba’ is a traditional game played every Christmas Day and New Year’s Day on the streets of Kirkwall, Orkney’s largest town. Once upon a time, street ball games were common across the UK, but only a handful have survived and Kirkwall’s is one of them.
The game is played by two teams of men, known as the Uppies and the Doonies, and the team you’re on depends on what side of the town you were born.
New Year’s day will see around 200 men compete in this unpredictable scrum-like game around the local streets and alleys. Anyone is welcome to watch, but mind out when the scrum approaches!