8 Scottish Christmas traditions explained

Many of Scotland’s seasonal customs at Christmas are traditional in the truest sense, with many stretching back hundreds of years.

Picture: WikiComms

There are some great pagan ideas, first-rate medieval treats, but then there is a huge gap in festivities - a Christmas-free zone until the middle of the 20th century - until it all came back into fashion. Here we take a look at some Christmas traditions and their origins.

When druids and pagans inhabited Scotland they took greenery into the house, as a symbol of life in the dark nights of midwinter. Mistletoe, revered by the druids for its fertility properties, was cut from the sacred oak tree.

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To banish the dark, the pagans brought fire into the house. At some point this time of year became known as Yule and during the festival a Yule log was gathered.
It is the pagans too who have been credited with the early tradition of decorating a tree. It is thought that they hung shapes from an evergreen brought into the house to symbolise life.
The Celts burned the Cailleach a log with the face of an old woman carved into it that was supposed to take away any lingering bad luck.
The Celts also lit candles at Christmastime to light the way for any strangers. In Scotland the custom was known as Oidche Choinnle, or Night of Candles, and these were placed in windows to guide the Holy Family on their way.
The sweet treat of today used to contain meat, fruit, spices, which would be baked in a huge wheel to feed neighbours and visitors. By 1583 the Scot's Church forbade these pies so they became smaller and easier to hide.
The 12-day celebration of Yule was fully embraced by our Viking ancestors, who settled in Scotland between the 8th and 15th Centuries, and celebrated with a feast.
While now an American drink, a version of Eggnog was made by the Vikings and drank in Shetland. Known as Whipkull, it was made using a dozen egg yolks, a pound of sugar, half a pint of rum and a quart of fresh cream.