Scottish Christmas and New Year Traditions explained

Did you know?

Most people will be surprised to know that up until fairly recently, Christmas was not widely celebrated in Scotland – Hogmanay (New Year) has always been the main holiday celebrated around the country.

Surprisingly, Christmas was actually banned in Scotland for nearly 400 years! Why? After the Reformation Christmas celebrations were thought to be too lavish for the strict puritans and in 1640 so-called Yule celebrations were made illegal! In fact, Christmas Day did not become an official holiday in Scotland until 1958, followed by Boxing Day in 1976…

Today people in Scotland enjoy all the “trimmings” of the festive season with Christmas trees, lights, presents and Santa making an appearance for the “wee ones”.

All About a Scottish Hogmanay…

As Christmas is a relatively modern celebration in Scotland, most holiday traditions relate to Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year.

“First footing” means welcoming your first visitor to your house after the “bells” – a dark haired visitor who carries a gift is thought to bring luck, a fair haired visitor bad luck! The traditional gift is a lump of coal to bring prosperity to the household in the New Year, but these days it’s more likely to be home-made food or a bottle of Single Malt…

Scottish Hogmanay celebrations are legendary with the most famous party taking place in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens. Inverness has its own Hogmanay celebration, the Red Hot Highland Fling. This is a free event for locals and visitors alike featuring local bands and fireworks to see in the New Year.

Lets not forget about Auld Lang Syne

After midnight it is traditional to link hands with your fellow revellers and sing Auld Lang Syne, written by Robert Burns and set to the melody of a traditional folk song. The tradition of singing Auld Lang Syne quickly spread around the UK and around the world with Scottish emigrants and is now sung at New Year parties around the globe.

Hogmanay is so popular in Scotland that it’s one of just a few countries in the world where 2nd January is also a public holiday – to give the celebrating Scots and extra day to recover before facing their New Year’s resolutions!