Scottish Christmas Traditions

There’s plenty to do in Scotland in the winter, and many Scots love getting in the festive spirit. But did you know that Christmas was banned there for almost four centuries?

Before the Reformation in 1560, Christmas in Scotland had been a religious feasting day. Then, with the powerful Kirk frowning upon anything related to Roman Catholicism, the Scottish Parliament passed a law in 1640 that made celebrating ‘Yule vacations’ illegal. Even after Charles II was restored to the throne, celebrating Christmas was frowned upon in Scotland for a long time – it wasn’t until 1958 that 25 December became a Scottish public holiday.

  1. Baking unleavened Yule bread for each person in their family. Whoever finds a trinket in their loaf will be blessed with good luck for the year!
  2. Burning a rowan twig as a way to get rid of any bad feelings between friends or family, and the ‘first-footer’, a special name given to the first person to arrive on Christmas Day (this tradition is now more commonly associated with New Year’s Day)
  3. To bless their guests, first-footers come with gifts such as coal, whisky, salt and bread. Black buns are also a popular first-footing gift – they’re made with raisins, currants, almonds, citrus peel, allspice, ginger and cinnamon, and topped with pastry.
  4. Children write letters to Santa Claus, and on Christmas Eve leave something for him to eat (like a mince pie) and drink (like sherry or whisky) when he visits in the night.
  5. People pull crackers, tell (bad) jokes, make toasts and then relax for the rest of the day, often in front of the television to watch the annual Queen’s speech or a festive film.

(Sourced from https://www.nts.org.uk/)