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Our Favourite Christmas Traditions in Scotland

Wrapping Up Our Scottish Christmas Traditions

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 in Scotland. Before that, a traditional Scottish Christmas usually meant coming home from work, enjoying a meal with your family and waiting for Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) to arrive. So, we’ve been digging deep to find our favourite Scottish Christmas traditions.

The Cancelling Of Christmas

Christmas decorations on the pillars of an old Edinburgh buildingWay back yonder when we used to say things like ye olde and yesteryear, before the Reformation of 1560, Christmas 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. The official Christmas ban did not last long, but Scots didn’t really celebrate Christmas until about 400 years later. Instead, Hogmanay was the prevailing Scottish winter festival.

Spreading The Christmas Cheer

Christmas markets and ice rink on east princes street gardensWhile Hogmanay is still a huge event in our festive calendar, Christmas is now widely celebrated in Scotland. And with it, all new Scottish Christmas traditions. All across Scotland, we celebrate in true Scottish style. This 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 Christmas 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

family enjoying Christmas over a Christmas feastDespite the wonderful festivities of Edinburgh’s Christmas, we Scots have adapted many Christmas traditions from around the world. Today we celebrate Christmas with beautifully decorated trees, gifts 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 was the baking of Yule bread. Divination and fortune telling with egg whites and fireplace ash was also a favourite Christmas pastime. While people burned rowan tree twigs to clear away feelings of jealousy and mistrust in the household. And to honour the Holy Family’s search for shelter, they placed candles in the window to welcome strangers in from the cold has always been a long-standing Scottish Christmas tradition.

So if you’re thinking of joining us for Christmas or Hogmanay in Edinburgh, take a look at our fabulous Festive Offers. We hope you have a wonderful Ho Ho Ho-liday.

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