CactusJack

Christmas in Scotland, Through the Ages

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From the Seven Rivers Highland Society.

Down through the ages, Scots have celebrated the coming of Winter with a variety of holidays and traditions. From the ancient Celts who honored the turning of the year’s wheel to modern Scots celebrating Christmas, the December holidays play a welcome role in Celtic homes. Prior to the coming of Christianity, the ancient Scots marked Winter Solstice as the returning of the Sun and the assurance that Winter would indeed end. One of the most important ancient sites in Scotland associated with the Winter Solstice is the Neolithic site of Maeshowe in the Orkney Islands. Like Newgrange’s chambered tomb in Ireland, it was built to mark the passage of the Winter Solstice. While we do not have extensive documentation on exactly what the ancient Celts did at Winter Solstice, we do know that celebrations included bonfires to welcome (or encourage) the return of the sun. Plants such as holly, mistletoe and evergreens were held to be sacred by the ancient Celts and were associated with this time of year. With the coming of Christianity, and the ultimate predominance of the Catholic Church, customs old and new found a place in Scottish homes and communities. Through the centuries, Christian and pagan customs melded into the lives of the Scots. Christmas was celebrated under Catholicism as a major feast day marked by prayer, services, and such celebrations of merriment as local circumstances and custom permitted. The blending of the ancient with the new religion created a sense of familiarity which continued until the Protestant Reformation. In 1560 the practice of the old faith was abolished, along with its customs and celebrations. Christmas in Scotland went underground for the next few centuries. It became illegal to “keep Yule” in Scotland. Those caught celebrating on the day were fined. December 24th and 25th were ordinary working days. While open celebration and decorations were banned, some still kept the holiday. Those who quietly maintained old traditions kept alive the memories and the ways of their ancestors. In many parts of Scotland a variety of customs survived. Among those that did, several had ancient roots, such as the practice of keeping a strong fire going on Christmas Eve to prevent mischief-making elves from coming down the chimney. Also, the custom of serving a dish of oats and meal called “Sowans” on Christmas Eve was handed down in certain areas. And in a number of Scottish homes on that night, rowan branches burned quietly to symbolize the banishment of any bad feelings among family or friends. In 1958 Christmas became a public holiday in Scotland and has reclaimed much of the joy and importance it once had. Modern Scots celebrate with decorations of evergreens, holly, and tartan, as well as Christmas trees. Christmas dinner finds such dishes as turkey, goose, or roast beef gracing Scottish tables along with many of the same side dishes that are enjoyed in America. Popular desserts include Clootie Dumpling, Christmas Pudding, and Christmas Cake. The present day sees many events honoring the holiday season in Scotland. Ancient celebrations for Winter Solstice have been revived in recent years; Christmas services are held; and many towns and cities welcome the world to colorful and interesting festivals. Edinburgh alone offers a month long calendar of festivities that range from a Highland Village Christmas Market to hundreds participating in a “Santa Stroll” for charity through the downtown streets, as well as candlelit carol concerts and carol ceilidhs. The Winter holidays are alive and well in the Highlands. Customs old and new are celebrated and are taught to each generation in turn. The legacy of the sacred and joyous days of Winter wears its tartan proudly.
Edited by CactusJack

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Very nice! Thanks for posting that! :wavey:

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..... Clootie Dumpling....... mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Newgranges tomb in Ireland? I must google that....never heard. That was interesting, CJ, thank you.

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Newgranges tomb in Ireland? I must google that....never heard. That was interesting, CJ, thank you.

Don't thank me, Thank the folks at Seven Rivers, It was on our web site and just felt I had to share with my brothers and sisters here..

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Thought I'd bump this as we are getting close to Christmas.

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Doesn't have to be Christmas for me to pig out on Clootie Dumpling, but luckily I have some in the fridge...

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Thank you for sharing!

this was very interesting!

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My Friend, as usual, your "history" posts are great.

May I share this elsewhere ?????

Jack

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My Friend, as usual, your "history" posts are great.

May I share this elsewhere ?????

Jack

Jack my friend, you may share this where ever you want

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Great information, can't wait to read about beltane when it rolls around

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