A Scottish Christmas

Christmas is a time for our families to come together. I am blessed with two wonderful children and three grandchildren. My son holds a special place in my heart and my daughter too. They are my best friends. My eldest grandson, is so tall now and runs in marathons, my middle grandson is reading the classics, and my grandaughter is a treasure. I love them all and my happiest times are spent with them.

Here in Australia Christmas Day is often a very hot day with traditional dinners becoming a thing of the past (although some would disagree with this custom) but it is no less special and my favourite time of the holidays is Christmas Eve when we exchange presents.


Our family has Scottish ancestors so I thought I’d make my last post for 2016 a tribute to them.

Claire and Jamie from Outlander.


Traditional Scottish Christmas

The Scots word “Yule” comes from the Old Norse “jól, which was a midwinter pagan celebration of the winter soltice. Traditionally, Yule refers not just to Christmas Day but the twelve days of the earlier festival. The Christian Church took over the celebration, but some of the traditions harked back to the pagan roots.

One of the most unusual facts about Scottish Christmas traditions is they haven’t been around very long. For nearly 400 years, the celebration of Christmas as we know it was banned in Scotland. It’s no wonder that the Scottish New Year’s festival, Hogmanay, is a days’ long party.

The Banning of “Christ’s Mass”

The people of the United Kingdom were oppressed by Oliver Cromwell in the mid-1600s. During a period known as the Reformation, Parliament issued the ban in 1647, and upheld it for nearly 15 years.

When Cromwell fell from grace, the ban was lifted in the most of the U.K., but not in Scotland. The Scottish Presbyterian Church continued to discourage Christmas holiday festivities, including formal Mass, and people suffered penalties if caught celebrating. This ban lasted for nearly 400 years.

Finally, in the late 1950s, Christmas and the U.K. tradition of Boxing Day became recognized holidays for the Scottish people.

Many Scots still burn a twig of the rowen tree at Christmas as a way to clear away bad feelings of jealousy or mistrust between family members, friends, or neighbors.

Once the ban on Christmas was lifted, the Scottish adapted many of the Christmas traditions used in England and the U.S. Today, the Scots celebrate with festive Christmas trees and presents for all. Great dinners include mounds of Scottish shortbread, mashed turnips, and roasted turkey or venison stew. In addition to Yule bread, families may also make a Black Bun, or Twelfth Night Cake. Similar to a fruitcake, it has thick pastry and is packed with spices, fruit, nuts…and more than a dash of whiskey!

‘Auld Lang Syne’ is the most famous Scottish holiday music.
Hogmanay: Four Days of Reverie

One thing that a traditional Scottish Christmas has with the rest of the UK is that normally at 3.00pm on the television is the recording of the Queen’s Speech.

Scotland has very short days at the end of December. It is dark until around 8.30 am and again about 3.30pm in the afternoon. The shortest day is the 22nd December. The weather is usually quite cold, but not as bitter as other countries and the lights and warmth of candles in windows and the merrily burning fires in the grates are a welcome sight.

There must be something wonderful about having the native Scots Pine as a traditional Scottish Christmas tree. That lovely fresh smell of the pine against the cosy warmth of the indoors must be delightful.

Nollaig chridheil agus bliadhna mhath ùr.

Have a Happy Christmas and all the very best for 2017.

Cheers Elise


Filed under What Elise Wrote

2 responses to “A Scottish Christmas

  1. Bianca

    Elise, Thank you for this article I found it so interesting. It is amazing how Christmas is celebrated in so many ways around the world.


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