Tuesday, 13 December 2011 9:41 AM
Are you looking for New Year's holiday ideas but weary with all the disappointing party hype? Do something different this New Year's Eve and visit one of the UK's quirky celebrations, many of which originate from our pagan history. Here are Travelbite.co.uk's top five wacky New Year's Eve events:
We all know that they take New Year's Eve, or Hogmanay, very seriously in Scotland so as you would expect some of the UK's most unusual New Year's celebrations can be found north of the border.
At midnight in the little North Sea fishing port of Stonehaven, near Aberdeen, 60 kilt-wearing men stride up the main road whirling 16-pound flaming balls around their heads at the end of five foot wire ropes.
The skirl of the pipes and drums accompany the marchers to the harbourside, where the flaming balls are flung into the sea, warding off any evil spirits and bringing good luck to the fishing fleet.
Fancy dress in Bideford, Devon
The ancient town of Bideford in Devon may be famous for its 17th century witch trials but it has since become one of the most interesting places to see in the New Year in England. Like Dartmouth, Looe and St Ives, Bideford attracts thousands of people in fancy dress to its New Year's Eve party.
At midnight all listen for the church bells of St Mary's to chime and once it was traditional to attempt running across the 13th century Long Bridge before they finished ringing. Now everyone gathers on Long Bridge to cheer and the revelry goes on into the small hours.
On both Christmas and New Year's Day the residents of the tiny Orkney Islands town of Kirkwall barricade their houses for an unusual game of football played throughout the winding streets.
The game of Ba' involves carrying a hand-made leather ball filled with cork from one end of Kirkwall to the other. The participants are divided into Uppies or Doonies depending on where they were born.
Another pagan-originating New Year's fire festival in the UK is held every year in Allendale, in the North of England. The Tar Barl is a test of strength and courage for the participants - 45 'Guisers' or hereditary barrel bearers.
They pass through the town carrying on their heads heavy whiskey barrels filled with burning tar. It is a spectacular sight, with sparks and flames rising up in the night, and gets pretty wild at the climax as they throw the barrels on the huge Baal bonfire in the town centre.
This quirky tradition is celebrated in the village of Haxey in North Lincolnshire on January 6th (12th Night). It dates back to the 14th century when the wife of the local landowner lost her silk hood in the wind when out riding.
A sort of ruck and maul movement called the 'sway' re-enacts the efforts of farm workers trying to retrieve the garment in the fields. The lady was impressed with this chivalry and gave them 13 acres of land as long as the event was commemorated every year. Nowadays it's a sort of leather tube that is chased around between the village pubs.
But perhaps the strangest New Year's event could be at your house this New Year's Day. According to the old custom of 'first footing' the first male visitor to the house after midnight on New Year's Day brings good luck. The first footer must bring a lump of coal, some bread and a handful of salt. He may expect a drink of some alcoholic beverage in return!
By Natasha von Geldern
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