Scotland’s Interesting Relationship with Christmas

Ever wondered why Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) is such a big thing in Scotland & why we have an extra day off at that time of year when neighbouring countries don’t? 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

This is because the Presbyterian Scottish Kirk abolished Yule/Christmas & any other feast days etc they felt were too “popish” in 1595. Prior to this, it had been a feast day since the population converted to Christianity. This was followed by more changes in the 1600s abolishing court holidays associated with Yule in order to have people practice what they thought was a more “pure” form of the religion 🚫

All these changes meant that not only was Yule supposed to be a normal working day but people could also be punished if caught celebrating, which did happen. As a result many traditions etc ‘migrated’ to New Year time & so Hogmanay became the time when people celebrated publicly 🗓

Although these bans were eventually lifted by the early 1700s, it wasn’t until 1971 that it became an official Bank Holiday in Scotland after public sentiment towards Christmas had shifted sufficiently for at least most people to want the day off to celebrate. Prior to the 1971 legislation, Christmas was supposed to have been made a Public Holiday in 1958, however this only seems to have had a patchy effect with just some areas or industries getting the day off & others not (or still having to request time off individually). So, it took more petitions from the public & demands from Scottish MPs to finally get that official Bank Holiday in 1971, making things very similar to how they are today 🌲

Nowadays Christmas is such a big thing in Scotland that you wouldn’t guess it had ever been any other way, but it hasn’t been that long since things were different ⏳

📜 For more details have a read of this brilliant post which includes various details more records, translations of old Scots & photos of documents etc regarding this part of our history, followed by a wee recipe at the end on The National Records of Scotland blog ⬅️

💬 Interesting quote from the above article taken from a 1939 letter in their archives:

“It has to be admitted that almost continuous contact with Englishmen, in an English city, is bound to have a changing influence on even a Scotsman, that being so it is well that he should be reminded that even yet, barbarous though it may seem to be to English people, the New Year is the national festival in Scotland.”

📰 Another interesting thing included in the article was a newspaper extract from 1970 detailing an MP’s argument as to why it should be made an official holiday – this newspaper is also available through the Google News archive so I’ll put an image of that version below:

Taken from: Google News

🎧 Additionally, you can have a listen to more details of the sort of “Christmas crimes” people got into trouble for during the bans on this podcast episode of Stories of Scotland

💻 You might also want to have a read of the Dunfermline History Society blog that contains more details about what happened in 1958 as well as similar info to the above linked NRS article.

📸 Featured Photo credit: Pexel


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