December's Travel Article


Christmas in Scotland

by Ola Jones edited by Lynne Hand

Years ago the Christmas holidays in Scotland weren't exactly the same as they are now. Christmas itself was, until recent times, a purely religious festival (the New Year, now called Hogmanay, was and still is the main holiday for Scots). It was even forbbiden to celebrate Christmas until 1950. This ban had lasted for about 400 hundred years because of John Knox, the religious reformer in Scotland, who had a big influence on the Scottish Church, and probably because of him the ban was strictly enforced in law. Until the sixties, last century, Christmas wasn't even a public holiday, so people barely celebrated it.  Adults would work, although the children still had their presents. It was almost as if you could say: "Wanna have a real traditional Scottish Christmas? Go to work on Christmas day!" But most people didn't like that and nowadays Christmas looks pretty much the same as the US version.

And a Scottish Christmas is a mixture of different customs from Europe and the USA. As a result, everything revolves around shopping, food, the Christmas tree and decorations.

Shopping heat starts very early - just before Hallowe'en when shops start filling up with a variety of gift ideas. Shopping centres are decorated with fairy lights, not just in the trees, but almost everywhere. And as in America Santa appears in shopping centres and children can stand in a queue to tell him what they want for Christmas, and are given a small toy.

One of the signs that Christmas is coming is that the neighbours start decorating their houses. They usually do it with lit up musical Santas climbing into windows and fake snow being rolled out across rooves. The little ones can join in the countdown by using advent calendars, which have little doors that open for every day in December, there's a little chocolate inside and a picture behind. The calendar ends on Christmas Eve. Of course on this day children are thrilled with the excitement of waiting for presents, usually left under the Christmas tree. Sometimes kids can find their gifts the next day in stockings filled by Santa as they were sleeping. On Christmas day all the family  gathers around the table, to eat turkey, pudding or chocolate cake (Swedish Yule log), drinking wine or champagne, and hopefully waiting for snow.

So as you can see, it looks just like any other country in Europe or in the USA. The things that are unique for Christmas in Scotland are the beliefs associated with a Scottish Christmas like "Bees leave hives Xmas Mornning" or a Black Bum cake. There are also scottish gifts. Only in Scotland you might get for a present: original scotch whisky, wool kilts (in tartan or in solid colours), and even picnic blankets or one of Scotland's Unique Cat Breeds - the Scottish Fold. And of course it is also very important that the presents are opened very carefully to make sure the wrapping paper can be used again next year. ;-)

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