HOGMANAY, the name in Scotland and some parts of the north of England for New Year's Eve, as also for the cake then given to the children. On the morning of the 31st of December the children in small bands go from door to door singing:
" Hogmanay Trollolay Gie's o 1 your white bread and nane o' your grey " ; and begging for small gifts or alms. These usually take the form of an oaten cake. The derivation of the term has been much disputed. Cotgrave (1611) says: "It is the voice of the country folks begging small presents or New Year's gifts . . . an ancient term of rejoicing derived from the Druids, who were wont the first of each January to go into the woods, where, having sacrificed and banquetted together, they gathered mistletoe, esteeming it excellent to make beasts fruitful and most soverayne against all poyson." And he connects the word, through such Norman French forms as hoguinane, with the old French aguilanneuf, which he explains as an gui-l' an-neuf , " to the mistletoe! the New Year!" this being (on his interpretation) the Druidical salutation to the coming year as the revellers issued from the woods armed with boughs of mistletoe. But though this explanation may be accepted as containing the truth in referring the word to a French original, Cotgrave's detailed etymology is now repudiated by scientific philologists, and the identical French aguilanneuf remains, like it, in obscurity.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)