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Christmas In Scotland

Say Merry Christmas in Scotland

 Scots - Blithe Yule

Gaelic - Nollaig Chridheil

The Scots celebrate Christmas rather somberly and reserve their merriment for New Year's Eve which is called Hogmanay. This word may derive from a kind of oat cake that was traditionally given to children on New Year's Eve. The first person to set foot in a residence in a New Year is thought to profoundly affect the fortunes of the inhabitants. Generally strangers are thought to bring good luck. Depending on the area, it may be better to have a dark-haired or fair-haired stranger set foot in the house. This tradition is widely known as "first footing."


Christmas itself was until recent times a purely Religious festival and New Year was and still is the main holiday for Scots.


Christmas was not traditionally celebrated in Scotland because it was banned for nearly 400 years until the 1950's. Hogmanay was the real traditional celebration. The reason Christmas was not celebrated until recently go back to the time of John Knox in the 1580's as it was seen to be papist in origin - the ban was strictly enforced in law.


Until recently, Christmas was fairly low key. It wasn't even a public holiday until 1958. Up till then, people worked normally on Christmas day, although the children did get presents. Therefore the Christmas 'traditions' in Scotland are pretty much the same modern US version. Traditions like sending Christmas cards, decorating trees, buying gifts and singing carols can be seen in Scotland. If you wanted to have a real traditional Scottish Christmas, you should go into work on Christmas day! In 1997/98 and 2001/2002 there were strikes at Scottish banks because the bank staff were getting English holidays rather than the Scottish ones which have more time off at New Year.


As a result, most if not all Christmas celebrations nowadays have been brought in from other cultures (notable England and the US) and thus I'd be interested in finding out about Christmas customs unique to Scotland prior to the 20th century.

Presumably both Christmas and New Year are both linked to the ancient midwinter festival; with Christmas being created as a means to make the early Christian church more acceptable to the pagans who already had a festival about that time. The same was done for Easter. Thus there a few similarities between the Hallowe'en traditions and the New Year. In many parts of the Highlands there are traditional New Year celebrations which follow the Julian calendar and fall on Jan 12th. On this night, girls would celebrate "Hallowe'en" whilst boys would celebrate New Year.

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