A Festive Journey Through Caledonian Celebrations!
Scotland has a rich and diverse Christmas celebration that encompasses Christian, Celtic, and contemporary customs. Despite Christmas being banned in Scotland for nearly 400 years, the festive season is now a vibrant amalgamation of traditions from Scotland and all around the world. If you’re planning a Christmas escape to the Scottish borders, you’re in for a merry time.
Here are five fascinating festive traditions, some still observed today, while others have faded away over the years. Notably, the Scottish New Year’s festival, Hogmanay, is an extended celebration that reflects the joyous spirit of the season.
In the 1600s, during Oliver Cromwell’s rule and the Reformation in the UK, Parliament prohibited the observance of Christmas, leading to a question about Scotland’s celebration of the holiday. Scotland also banned Christmas, upholding the ban due to John Knox’s influence, the founder of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Instead, Scotland observed the winter solstice celebration known as Yule before the Reformation. In 1712, the ban on Christmas was lifted, except in Scotland, where it continued.
However, in 1958, Scotland officially embraced Christmas Day as a joyous public holiday, marking a significant shift. Prior to that, it had been treated as a regular working day for many Scots. Over time, the focus of winter celebrations in Scotland shifted to Hogmanay, a significant event held on New Year’s Eve, which became a prominent part of Scottish culture.
The Scottish Kilt | A Pinnacle of Traditional Attire
During the Christmas season, many Scots proudly don traditional kilts, showcasing their heritage and adding a touch of authenticity to festive gatherings. The kilt, with its distinct tartan patterns, is a symbol of Scottish pride and tradition, making it a must-have attire for various celebrations, including Christmas and Hogmanay.
As you immerse yourself in the Scottish Christmas experience, don’t forget to embrace the warmth of traditional customs, from Yule to Hogmanay, and consider donning a Scottish kilt to truly capture the spirit of the season. Whether you’re exploring ancient traditions or creating new memories, a Scottish Christmas promises a profound celebration filled with history, culture, and festive joy.
Scottish Christmas Traditions & Their Customs!
1. Yule Bread:
Yule Bread, a Scottish Christmas Traditions originating from the Shetland and Orkney islands, is an unleavened loaf with caraway seeds, plaited into a circle representing the Sun. During a ban on this tradition, bakers had to report anyone requesting the bread to the authorities. Each family member received a loaf with a hidden trinket, believed to bring them luck for the year.
The caraway seeds in the bread have pagan associations with Scottish folklore about Sìdhe and Winter spirits. An alternative tale suggests placing the loaves under newborns’ beds to protect them from spirits counting the seeds and stealing them.
2. Yule Log:
In accordance with the Yuletide tradition dating back to the Viking era, pagans used to ceremoniously burn a carefully chosen Yule log on the shortest day of the year. The charred remains from the previous year’s log were used for this ritual, believed to bring good luck and prosperity for the upcoming year. In modern times, the Yule Log has transformed into a delightful Christmas dessert – the chocolate roulade cake. Though the exact origins of its connection to the Yule Log tradition remain uncertain, it serves as a cherished tribute to our pagan ancestors while delighting the entire family with its delectable taste.
3. Mince Pies:
As we continue discussing food, which is one of our cherished topics that we love discussing, So, let’s delve into the delightful world of Mince Pies. These scrumptious treats have always sparked some confusion due to their name, as they contain a filling known as “mincemeat,” which is a blend of dried fruits and spices, rather than ground beef mince.
Similar to the history of Yule Bread, there were certain restrictions on who could prepare these pies. Bakers were once forbidden from making them. To circumvent this, the mince pies were made in small sizes, making it easier to conceal them from the watchful eyes of the church. Thus, the tradition of these dainty pies came into being.
In the realm of ancient practices akin to the Pagans’ Yule Log observance, the Celts embraced the enigmatic Cailleach, known as the “Old Woman Winter.” This custom involved intricately carving a log resembling an elderly woman, symbolizing the embodiment of the Hag of Winter, heralding long nights and chilling cold. By kindling this log, the Celts sought to dispel ill fortune and break free from frigidity and darkness.
5. Burning the Rowan Tree:
The act of burning a Rowan Tree branch has evolved into a revered tradition for conflict resolution and restoring harmony among friends and family. The tree is regarded for its protective energies, making it emblematic for the Malcolm and MacLachlan clans. Moreover, in Scots Gaelic, Merry Christmas is known as “Caorunn,” a name seen in different highland locations, including Beinn Chaorainn in Inverness-shire and Loch a’chaorun in Easter Ross.
Mistletoe, now an integral part of Scottish Christmas traditions, has a history that transcends the holiday season. It was cherished by Pagans who considered it a symbol of life and brought greenery into their homes during the dark winter nights. The custom of kissing under the mistletoe traces back to Norse mythology, centered around the tale of Baldur and Frigg. Frigg, in her efforts to protect her son Baldur, cast a spell shielding him from harm by any plant except mistletoe, which grows from trees.
Seizing this oversight, the mischievous Norse god Loki fashioned a deadly spear using mistletoe, leading to Baldur’s tragic demise. In honor of her love for her son, Frigg declared mistletoe a symbol of affection and vowed to kiss anyone passing beneath it. This touching myth is the origin of the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. Moreover, Mistletoe is also significant as the emblem of Clan Hay, who possess Duns Castle, located near our headquarters.
7. Sweetie Scone Day:
Since the Victorian era, Christmas celebrations have risen. In 1974, Boxing Day became a public traditional Scottish holiday. Its exact origins are unclear, but it’s believed that affluent residents would allow their servants to visit their families after working on Christmas Day and give them a Christmas Box as appreciation. Boxing Day had been observed as a bank holiday in the rest of the UK since 1871. On Boxing Day, Scottish lords and ladies are supposed to give sweetie scones to hard-working staff and the less fortunate.
8. The Daft Days In Scottish Christmas Traditions:
The phrase ‘daft days’ gained fame through 17th-century Scots poet Robert Fergusson, referring to the joyful twelve-day period between Christmas, New Year, and Handsel Monday. It’s a time of celebration, merriment and indulgence, allowing playful behaviors. Poet Len Pennie wrote ‘A Toast Tae The Daft Days,’ a Scots language advocate with a devoted online following. Len discussed her fascination with Scots Language on ‘Anna Nother thing about tartan’ with Amy.
Scotland refers to Santa Claus as Father Christmas. It’s rumoured that Scottish Santa Claus is a favourite Christmas song. Having followed Rudolph’s nose from Glasgow to Lapland, he moved to the region. Our Scottish santa enjoys treats like whisky, Christmas cake, and pudding supper. He enters through the window since the chimney is too tight. Despite his indulgences, he’s loved and celebrated everywhere he goes!
Santa without his reindeer? Unthinkable! Santa scotland is plausible since the only UK reindeer live in Scotland’s Cairngorm Mountains. In 1952, Christmas was declared a public holiday, which led to the introduction of the 150-strong herd. The Reindeer Company was founded by Mikel Utsi and Ethel Lindgren after they discovered the ideal reindeer habitat during their honeymoon. Records show reindeer in Scotland centuries ago, and upon arrival, they quarantined at Edinburgh Zoo. Can’t resist their cuteness; I plan to visit them this year!
11. Christmas Trees:
In the Victorian Era, Christmas Trees became popular in the UK thanks to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s influence. They adorned the trees with candles, sweets, and fruit. Today, we use lights and unique decorations. The era also saw the shift to modern Turkey dinners and sweet mince pies. Victorian Christmas focused on family, gift-giving, and parlour games, as popularised by Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Embrace your Scottish heritage with Tartan Heart or Highland Coo decorations. Merry Christmas!
12. First Footing:
The initial custom of the first footer, which is now linked to Hogmanay Scotand, actually originated as one of Scottish Christmas Traditions. they are honoured as the symbolic search for shelter undertaken by Mary and Joseph during the birth of Christ.
The first footer refers to the individual who crosses the threshold first on New Year’s Day. In the past, it used to be on Christmas Day. This person would bring along gifts such as money, bread, black bun, as well as coal or peat. These items were believed to bring prosperity, abundance, and warmth to the household.
“Frequently Asked Questions”
The Traditional Christmas in Scotland’s dinner typically includes roasted turkey or chicken, served with vegetables such as carrots, turnips, and Brussels sprouts. It is also common to have haggis, a traditional Scottish dish made from sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs mixed with oatmeal and spices, as part of the festive meal.
In Scotland, Santa is often referred to as “Santa Claus,” similar to how he is called in many English-speaking countries.
A fun fact about Christmas in Scotland is that it is a time for celebrating with numerous scotland traditional holidays and customs, one of which includes “First-footing.” It’s a tradition where the first person to enter a household after midnight on New Year’s Eve brings gifts like coal, shortbread, or whisky for good luck in the coming year.
One of the prominent symbols of Christmas in Scotland is the “Yule Log.” The Yule Log is a large wooden log, often decorated with ribbons and greenery, which is burned in the fireplace during the festive season.
For dessert at Christmas, Scottish people often enjoy a traditional fruitcake called “Dundee Cake.” It is made with almonds, currants, sultanas, and cherries, and has a delicious, rich flavour. Additionally, another popular dessert is “Cranachan,” a mixture of whipped cream, whisky, honey, and raspberries, all layered with toasted oats.
The most celebrated holiday in Scotland is Hogmanay, which is the Scottish New Year’s Eve. It is a significant and widely celebrated event, marked by various customs and traditions in scotland that bring people together to welcome the new year with joy and merriment.