Christmas in Scotland

Christmas in Scotland

Scotland is near and dear to my heart, since in a very close second to Irish, my genealogy is mostly Scottish. I have a Clans of Scotland poster on my wall and a blanket of one of my ancestral tartans.

How glorious would it be to spend Christmas in Scotland!

Nollaig Chridheil! (Merry Christmas in Scottish Gaelic)

The New Year’s celebration, Hogmanay, is the important event of the year, as Christmas is not nearly as big of a deal in Scotland as it is in countries like America. Hogmanay is celebrated by festivities that last for nearly a week, with festivals, bonfires, and music concerts. Hogmanay also includes:

  • Large Auld Lang Syne concerts, where thousands of Scots gather to sing this widely loved song, which was written by the Scottish poet Robert Burns.
  • An annual house cleaning called Redding the House. The ritual is said to clear the bad luck of the previous year and hearten good luck in the new year.
  • Another way the Scottish purge the old year is with Viking fire festivals.
  • Torch-lit processions are common too.
  • Fireworks displays.
  • Street parties.
  • Fireball swinging.

So why is Christmas not as important as Hogmanay? For almost 400 years, it was banned!! During the Reformation in the Oliver Cromwell years, Parliament issued a Christ’s Mass ban in 1647. The ban was eventually lifted in England after Cromwell’s death, but the ban in Scotland held. The Scottish Church dissuaded large Christmas celebrations, because Christmas was deemed too “Roman Catholic”.

Christmas finally became an official holiday in 1958. Now, in the 21st century, Christmas Day is more widely celebrated than ever before, but Hogmanay continues to be the largest celebration of the season.

There is a long-standing tradition that fires need to be kept going on Christmas Eve to keep the mischievous elves from sneaking down your chimney.

Placing candles in the windows is another long-standing Christmas tradition. The candles are a symbol for honoring the Holy Family, who searched for shelter the night of Jesus’ birth.

Many of the Christmas traditions from America are now being adopted in Scotland.  Christmas trees and Christmas Day gifts are common. (Just like in America, Christmas shopping begins before Halloween!)

Pillow cases are often used instead of stockings.

In the heart of Edinburgh, there is a large Christmas Market, which brings visitors from hundreds of miles. Santa Claus is celebrated here too, in Santa Land, which consists of a Christmas Tree Maze, Elven Workshop, Santa Train, North Pole Slide, and much more.

Days are very cold, short and dark in December, so  sunlight only shines from around 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. On Christmas Day, gifts are exchanged and Christmas crackers are always opened. The Queen’s annual speech is always watched at precisely 3:00 pm. Dinner is eaten wearing the paper crown that came out of the Christmas cracker.

December 26th is Boxing Day, a national holiday throughout all of the United Kingdom. Boxing Day is a popular day for shopping the after-Christmas sales.


Christmas Around the World


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