There are many customs, both national and local, associated with Hogmanay. The most widespread national custom is the practice of first-footing which starts immediately after midnight. This involves being the first person to cross the threshold of a friend or neighbour and often involves the giving of symbolic gifts such as coal or shortbread, intended to bring different kinds of luck to the householder. This may go on throughout the early hours of the morning and well into the next day.
An example of a local Hogmanay custom is the fireball swinging which takes place in Stonehaven in north-east Scotland. This involves local people making up balls of chicken wire, tar, paper and other flammable material to a diameter of about a metre, or three feet. Each ball has two metres (six feet) of wire, chain or non-flammable rope attached. The balls are then each assigned to a swinger who swings the ball round and round their head and body by the rope while walking through the streets of Stonehaven from the harbour to the Sheriff court and back. At the end of the ceremony any fireballs which are still burning are cast into the harbour. Many people enjoy this display which is more impressive in the dark than it would be during the day. As a result large crowds flock to the town to see it.
Until the 1960s, Hogmanay and Ne'erday (Netherday, New Year's Day) in Scotland took the place of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the rest of the UK. Although Christmas Day held its normal religious nature, the Presbyterian national church, the Church of Scotland had discouraged its celebration for over 300 years. As a result Christmas Day was a normal working day in Scotland until the 1960s and even into the 1970s in some areas. The gift-giving, public holidays and feasting associated with mid-winter were held between the 31st of December and the 2nd of January rather than between the 24th and 26th of December.
With the fading of the Church's influence and the introduction of English cultural values via television and immigration, the transition to Christmas feasting was well-nigh complete by the 1980s. However the public holidays associated with Ne'erday and the day after have remained despite the addition of Christmas Day to the public holiday list. A few Scots still celebrate Ne'erday with a special dinner but, as of the year 2000, they are very much in the minority.
As in the rest of the world, the four largest Scottish cities hold all-night celebrations. The Edinburgh Hogmanay celebrations are among the largest in the world.