Believe it or not, celebrating Christmas in Scotland is a relatively new affair. Unlike the rest of the UK, where unwrapping presents and enjoying large feasts was the norm come Christmas day, it wasn’t until 1958 that Christmas was officially recognised as a public holiday. Without tinsel and twinkly lights to keep you warm during the long, cold winter nights, a traditional Scottish Christmas usually meant going to work, enjoying a meal with your family and waiting for the winter months to pass. As for Scottish Christmas traditions, well until recently, there were virtually none.
The Cancelling Of Christmas
Way back yonder when we used to say things like ye ol’ and yesteryear, before the Reformation of 1560, Christmas in Scotland used to be known as Yule. We would celebrate Yule with games, gifts and feasts. But after the reformation, these kinds of festive holidays were not very popular. In 1640, the Scottish parliament made celebrating Yule illegal, while Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas entirely. The official Christmas ban did not last long, but Christmas in Scotland was not really celebrated until about 400 years later. Instead, Hogmanay was the prevailing Scottish Winter Festival.
Spreading The Christmas Cheer
While Hogmanay is still the biggest event in our festive calendar, Christmas in Scotland is gaining ground. And with it, all new Scottish Christmas Traditions. All across Scotland, Christmas is celebrated in true Scottish style (which usually means with a wee dram or two, a fabulous feast and an impressive display of Fireworks). Here in Edinburgh, we celebrate the jolly holly-day with a month-long winter festival. The streets are decked in bells and holly, a wonderful winter wonderland takes root in Princes Street and Christmas markets are aplenty.
The Ghost Of Scottish Christmas Traditions Past and Present
Despite the wonderful festivities of Edinburgh’s Christmas, we Scots have adapted many Christmas traditions from around the world (particularly England) as our own. Today we celebrate Christmas with beautifully decorated Christmas trees, Christmas presents for all and a large delicious feast with friends and family. While we have few surviving pre-ban Christmas traditions, one of the best-loved Christmas traditions was the baking of Yule bread. Divination and fortune telling with egg whites and fireplace ash was also a favourite Christmas pastime. While the burning of a rowen tree twig was said to clear away feelings of jealousy and mistrust in the household. And to honour the Holy Family’s search for shelter, placing candles in the window to welcome strangers in from the cold has always been a long-standing Scottish Christmas tradition.
So if you are thinking of joining us for Christmas in Scotland or Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, take a look at our fabulous Festive Offers. We hope you have a wonderful Ho Ho Ho-liday.