Christmas is a special time of year. Children anticipate the arrival of presents and time off from school, while adults anticipate time spent with loved ones. Many people think everyone celebrates Christmas the same way around the world, but that is not true. Every country has its own traditions and customs. Many countries do celebrate on December 25th though, and Scotland would be included on that list.
Just as in the United States, Scottish people have different traditions that take place during Christmas time. One tradition is to burn branches of a Rowan tree in their fireplace. This type of tree symbolizes that bad feelings and grudges are let go for the holiday season. Another tradition is to not let the fireplace fire go out. The Scots believe that if the fire goes out, evil elves will enter the house and play mischief on the people who live there. The fire continues to burn through the night and then on Christmas day they sing and dance around the fire to music played on bagpipes before they eat their noon meal.
Food is an important part of the Christmas celebration. Many houses have a large turkey dinner as their main Christmas meal. Some sides include potatoes, carrots, brussel sprouts, smoked salmon, and Christmas pudding. A common dish at Christmas time is called bannock cakes, which are made from oatmeal.
Another common dish served in Scotland is called sowans which is named after Sowans Nicht, what the Scots call Christmas Eve. This dish includes oat husks and soaked fine meal.
Scotland now celebrates Christmas on December 25th, but there was a time of four hundred years that the Scottish people did not celebrate Christmas. During this time adults worked on December 25th as if it was a normal day. Scottish people did not celebrate Christmas for many years because the festivities had gotten out of hand. The Christmas celebration returned in the 1950’s as a simple and quiet holiday. However, the New Year’s Eve celebration is very busy and noisy. This celebration, called Hogmanay, involves fireworks and inviting friends and family into your home to start the new year fresh and clean.
The main Christmas figure in Scotland is Santa Claus. Children spend their time leading up to Christmas writing Santa Claus letters and asking for specific presents. On Christmas Eve they leave out their stockings for Santa to fill. They also leave out mince pie and carrots to feed Santa’s reindeer.
Even though Christmas is a simple holiday in Scotland, the people there still enjoy getting together to celebrate. The homemade food and traditions will continue to be passed on down through the generations. As they would say in Scotland, Nollaig chridheil huibh, or Merry Christmas!