Did You Know?
- Christmas Celebrations in Scotland

Christmas Tree Edinburgh

Pagan Celts had celebrations around the time of the winter solstice, in part to brighten the darkest days, in part to propitiate the gods to allow the sun to return!

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. The Yule log was burned in the fireplace, there was kissing under the misletoe (related to a Druidic fertility rite) and the house was decorated with holly (evergreen trees were regarded with reverence). Of course such activities were not confined to the Celts or to Scotland.

After the Church Reformation in the 16th century, the celebration of Christmas was frowned on by the Kirk, which regarded it as a "Popish festival".

Mass was banned in Scotland at that time and "Christmas" or "Christ's Mass" was included in that.

There are records of charges being brought against people for keeping "Yule" as it was called in Scotland.

Amazingly, this dour, joy-crushing attitude lasted for 400 years. Until the 1960s, Christmas Day was a normal working day for most people in Scotland.

So if there is a specifically "Scottish" aspect to Christmas, it is that it was not celebrated.

Most of our "traditional" Christmas celebrations (other than the religious festival) originated in the 19th century (Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, had a lot to do with it!) and so England and Scotland developed the same traditions from around that time - Christmas trees, decorations, Santa Claus, presents, stockings at the end of the bed, Christmas Carols, Christmas cards etc. Christmas cards are said to have been invented in Edinburgh in the mid-nineteenth century,

Now have a look at the page on New Year!

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