Scotland at Christmas

A note on our customs and traditions

Christmas - what do we know for sure?

Scotland isn’t short of a tradition or two, and as our thoughts turn towards Christmas, we thought we’d take a look at some of the country’s surprising, magical, and often completely bonkers Christmas customs and traditions!

When Andy Williams first sang ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’ back in 1963, the song instantly became a Christmas anthem, and why?  Because quite frankly, Christmas truly IS the most wonderful time of the year, especially if you choose to visit us at Woodlands Glencoe! 

But we’re not here to inspire your next luxury festive getaway – although you can check out our last blog for some magical ideas if you want!  Instead, we thought we’d share some of our favourite Scottish festive traditions – and we think you’ll be surprised!

Christmas was once illegal in Scotland!

And no, we’re not exaggerating for dramatic effect.  During the years of the reformation in the 1600s, under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell, a strict ruling was put in place to ban ‘Christ’s Mass’ and any associated celebrations. However, even after Cromwell’s fall from power, the Scottish Parliament continued to enforce this ruling, declaring any Yule celebrations a criminal act!

It wasn’t until 1958 – only five years before the release of our festive favourite from Andy Williams – that Scotland made Christmas a public holiday. 

Romantic christmas getaways at SeaBeds Luxury Lookout Lodges with Hot Tubs at Woodlands Glencoe. A woman sits in the hot tub wearing a santa hat looking out over the loch and mountain view.
Romantic christmas for two at Woodlands Glencoe Luxury Lodges with sustainable christmas tree and roaring fire pit.

Misstletoe kisses

Long before Christmas was banned in the 1600s, ancient Celtic druids would celebrate the Winter Solstice by hanging greenery in their homes. This greenery was used to symbolise life, even in the darkness of the winter nights. It is also why we now hang holly wreaths from our doors – it was believed to protect your home from dangerous spirits.

Mistletoe was often hung during this period as it was thought to bring fertility to the family, and today this symbolism still remains, with many couples seen kissing beneath its leaves for good luck.

It wasn’t until 1958 – only five years before the release of our festive favourite from Andy Williams – that Scotland made Christmas a public holiday. 

Daft days and Uphalieday!

Scotland has become notoriously known for its wild and wonderful celebrations; however, this was also the case in the 11th Century when Celtic Churches became heavily influenced by Rome during Queen Margaret’s reign. During this period, Christmas Day marked the beginning of the daft days – more commonly known as the 12 days of Christmas! 

In later years, during Mary Queen of Scots’ reign, on the 12th night of Christmas, Scots would mark the end of the festive season with plays and pageantry, describing this date as Uphalieday.

In other words, it’s the ruling ladies who bring all the fun to Christmas!

This year, why not visit Woodlands Glencoe and experience the magic of Christmas and all its traditions here in Scotland? Well, maybe not all of them! 

With outdoor activities to fill the ‘daft days’ of Christmas and hidden luxury lodges nestled in lush greenery to protect you from evil spirits, treat you and your loved ones to a Woodlands break this winter!

Festive folklore

Scotland is a treasure trove of stories and myths dating back centuries. 

In Islay, children were made to fear the evil Crom Dubh na Nollaig – the dark crooked one of Christmas – who would visit their homes if they behaved badly during the season.

In Shetland and Orkney, Yule bread is made to represent the Celtic belief that the sun stood still for 12 days during the middle of winter. During this period, Celtic druids would light a log to combat the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring good fortune to the year ahead. Yule bread incorporates these beliefs by taking on a circular shape – representing the sun – and adding caraway seeds to represent the winter spirits. 

However, our favourite tale is the Oidche Chonnle – also known as Candle Night – when friendly Scots would light a candle on their front window to welcome travellers’ home or to guide wandering strangers on their way, much like the Christian story about the birth of Jesus.

trees woodlands glencoe estate sustainability

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