Christmas in Scotland is known for its Yuletide traditions. Read on to know more about the customs, traditions and celebrations during Christmas in Scotland.

Christmas In Scotland

Like all the countries around the world, Christmas is an important festival, celebrated with great pomp and mirth. Prior to the reformations of 1560, Christmas in Scotland, then called as the Yule, was celebrated according to Catholic norms. Yule celebrations were repealed in 1712 and thereafter, people started celebrating Christmas, but quietly. It was only in 1958 that Christmas was announced as a public holiday and marked as an important festival. However, more prominence is given to 'Hogmanay', which is similar to Christmas, but is essentially a New Year's Eve festivity. All the gift-giving, holidays and feasting, take place from the 11th of December to 6th January. Christmas in Scotland is heavily influenced by the west and in modern times, western rituals and even the Christmas character of Santa Claus have been adopted. Known for its food, Yuletide traditions and Christmas Eve festivities, one of the most prominent facets of the celebrations of Christmas in Scotland, is the German Christmas market, which is open all night and is established from late November to Christmas Eve. Scroll further to learn more about Christmas in Scotland.

Customs, Traditions And Celebrations

History And Traditions
It is believed that the Vikings came to Scotland during the 8th century, and when they left, they left behind a few traditions and festivities that we now call Christmas. Before the birth of Christianity, these traditions were given the name of 'Yule' or 'Yuletide', since it was celebrated mid-winter, during the solstice. The Norsemen had an appetite and penchant for conquests and celebration, and thus, the celebrations lasted for a period of 24 days. This overindulgence kicked off the traditions of the Yuletide, the Yule feast and the Yule Log. Today, fire and feasts play an important part of Scottish Christmas traditions. Along with the Yule celebrations, there are various superstitions linked with the festival that represented the renewal of life, good and ill omens. People would go all out in decorating their houses with trees, mistletoe and would also keep the Yule log burning till New Year's for the purpose of ringing in good omens.

The Scottish people celebrate New Year's Eve on a grand scale which is also known as 'Hogmanay', and is celebrated just like Christmas, with more importance. It is during this time that children wait for presents eagerly and celebrate the occasion with great fanfare. A long time ago, there was a superstition that it was bad luck to go out with friends and family on Christmas Eve. This was because, on New Year's Eve, elves would be creating a ruckus around town and staying at home with a fire would keep the elves at bay.

One of the most common practices of Hogmanay is first-footing, which starts around midnight. This involves the first person crossing the threshold of a neighbor, a family member or a friend and presenting either one of them with a symbolic gift such as salt, bread, coal or whiskey. The first-footing ceremony is believed to bring luck for the New Year, and is followed by Christmas festivities such as gift-opening, Christmas feasting and attending Church.

Origins Of Boxing Day
It is said that on Christmas, a long time ago, the Lord and the Lady of Scotland gathered all their staff and distributed gifts in accordance to their status in society. These gifts were neatly presented in boxes, and thus, Boxing Day became an inherent part of Scottish Christmas customs ever since. In modern times, gifts such as meats, spices, clothes and cereals are given to the impoverished in these boxes. Boxing Day is usually celebrated on the 26th of December, but is still a very important Christmas ritual.

Christmas Food
In Scotland, the Christmas feast is an elaborate one. Some of the most popular dishes at a Scottish Christmas feast are -
  • Roast Turkey
  • Soup — ‘Cock O Leekie’, Carrot or Coriander
  • Fish
  • Roasted Potatoes and Parsnips
  • Mixed Vegetables
  • Bacon Rolls
  • Jelly
  • Roast Goose
  • Steak Pie
  • Cranberry Jelly
  • Red Wine
  • Scottish Christmas pudding
  • Traditional ‘Bannock’ cakes
  • Yule Log Cake
  • ‘Clootie Dumpling’
  • ‘Crannachan’ — made with raspberries, oats and cream
Although the Christmas menu varies from one place to another, the structure of the menu typically, remains the same.

Scottish Christmas Decorations
More often than not, the Scottish love to have tweaks of red in their decorations at home and outside the house. This is probably one of the reasons as to why one might prospect a lot of mistletoes, hollies, and ribboned wreaths hung in and outside the house. The Scottish also love to decorate their trees with paper crafts and flags.

In Scotland, families get together, open presents and feast over an eloquent lunch, with the Yule Log cake being central to all the carnivorous feasting. According to age-old customs, Scottish people where gold, paper crowns on their heads and narrate stories of their ancestors over dinner. A light supper, followed by the preparations for 'Hogmanay'- a Scottish version of Christmas, makes Christmas in Scotland, a unique one!