I first came across the quaint word and tradition of Hogmanay in Iain Banks' The Crow Road -- one of my favorite novels, replete with great characters, a lovely location, and a complex story that is excellently told (more on it later).
Hogmanay is the Scottish word for the celebration of the New Year in the traditional Scottish manner. From The Crow Road I gathered that the festivities start on the night of December 31 and go on till the morning of January 1, when the participants, totally sozzled, crawl into bed and get up with hangovers that are cured by drinking skoosh. As apart of the celebrations, you visit as many friends and neighbours as possible, carrying with you drams of whiskey as gifts. Needless to say, since then, I wanted to be a part of Hogmanay celebrations (one day I will).
A quick search on the net throws up a lot of information about Hogmanay. I found that Edinburgh is the venue of the mother of all Hogmanay parties. That the tradition of visiting friends and neighbors is know as first-footing and it involves being the first person to cross the threshold of a friend or neighbor and giving them gifts that are supposed to bring them luck. The customary gifts have now seem to be replaced with drams (one of the reasons why many of the sites also have sections devoted to hangover cures -- the most popular seems to be one called Hair of the Dog).
Hogmanay is a wonderful mixture of traditional practices and partying -- of having fun and wishing the best for those around you. I guess, that inspite of the tsunami and all the loss, life goes on and there will be (subdued?) partying and gaiety even in India. A good many of the people will be fortunate enough to spend the time with family and friends as they usher in the new year -- spare a thought and a wish for the thousands in India and elsewhere who have been affected by the killer waves.
Here's hoping that 2005 "first-foots" into everybody's lives with lots of good luck and happiness. Happy Hogmanay and a good new year to you all.