Christmas in Scotland

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Christmas funfair

Prior to the Reformation of 1560, Christmas in Scotland, then called Yule (alternative spellings include Yhoill, Yuil, Ȝule and Ȝoull; see Yogh), was celebrated in a similar fashion to the rest of Catholic Europe. Calderwood recorded that in 1545, a few months before his murder, Cardinal Beaton had "passed over the Christmasse dayes with games and feasting".[ citation needed ] However, the Reformation transformed attitudes to traditional Christian feasting days, including Christmas, and led in practice to the abolition of festival days and other church holidays; [1] [2] the Kirk and the state being closely linked in Scotland during the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. A 1640 Act of the Parliament of Scotland abolished the "Yule vacation and all observation thereof in time coming". Christmas did not become a public holiday in Scotland until 1958.

Scottish Reformation religious and political movement that established the Church of Scotland

The Scottish Reformation was the process by which Scotland broke with the Papacy and developed a predominantly Calvinist national Kirk (church), which was strongly Presbyterian in outlook. It was part of the wider European Protestant Reformation that took place from the sixteenth century.

Christmas holiday originating in Christianity, usually celebrated on December 25 (in the Gregorian or Julian calendars)

Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it is preceded by the season of Advent or the Nativity Fast and initiates the season of Christmastide, which historically in the West lasts twelve days and culminates on Twelfth Night; in some traditions, Christmastide includes an octave. Christmas Day is a public holiday in many of the world's nations, is celebrated religiously by a majority of Christians, as well as culturally by many non-Christians, and forms an integral part of the holiday season centered around it.

Scotland Country in Northwest Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It covers the northern third of the island of Great Britain, with a border with England to the southeast, and is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, the North Sea to the northeast, the Irish Sea to the south, and more than 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.


Post-reformation suppression of Yule Tide celebrations

Two Acts of the Estates of Parliament—Act discharging the Yule vacance (2 June 1640) [3] and Act dischargeing the Yule vacance (15 April 1690) [4] — abolished the Yule Vacance (Christmas recess).

The first Act was partly repealed in 1686, [5] when Episcopalianism was briefly in ascendancy within the Kirk.

Bishops in the Church of Scotland

There have not been bishops in the Church of Scotland since the Restoration Episcopacy of the 17th century, although there have occasionally been attempts to reintroduce episcopalianism.

The second Act was partly repealed in 1712, by the Yule Vacance Act 1711 of the Westminster parliament. [6]

The 1640 Act stated (in Middle Scots): [3]

Robert Jamieson recorded the opinion of an English clergyman regarding the post-reformation suppression of Christmas: [8]

"The ministers of Scotland, in contempt of the holy-day observed by England, cause their wives and servants to spin in open sight of the people upon Yule day, and their affectionate auditors constrain their servants to yoke their plough on Yule day, in contempt of Christ's nativity. Which our Lord has not left unpunished, for their oxen ran wud, and brak their necks and lamed some ploughmen, which is notoriously known in some parts of Scotland."

Post-war period

Clootie dumpling Clootie dumpling.jpg
Clootie dumpling

Christmas in Scotland was traditionally observed very quietly, because the Church of Scotland – a Presbyterian church – for various reasons never placed much emphasis on the Christmas festival.

Christmas Day only became a public holiday in 1871 [9] and Boxing Day in 1974. [10] The New Year's Eve festivity, Hogmanay, was by far the largest celebration in Scotland. The gift-giving, public holidays and feasting associated with mid-winter were traditionally held between 11 December and 6 January. However, since the 1980s, the fading of the Church's influence and the increased influences from the rest of the UK and elsewhere, Christmas and its related festivities are now nearly on a par with Hogmanay and "Ne'erday". Edinburgh, Glasgow and other cities now have traditional German Christmas market from late November until Christmas Eve. [11]

See also

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  1. Ross, Anthony (Autumn 1959). "Reformation and Repression". The Innes Review . Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 10: 338–381. doi:10.3366/inr.1959.10.2.338. ISSN   0020-157X . Retrieved 1 December 2011.
  2. Christmas in Scotland: Christmas Around the World . World Book. 2001. p. 23. ISBN   978-0-7166-0860-8.
  3. 1 2 "Act discharging the Yule vacance". The Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707 . University of St Andrews and National Archives of Scotland. Archived from the original on 19 May 2012. Retrieved 2 December 2011.
  4. "Act discharging the Yule vacance". The Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707. University of St Andrews and National Archives of Scotland. Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Retrieved 2 December 2011.
  5. "Act for the Christmas vacation". The Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707. St Andrews: University of St Andrews and National Archives of Scotland. Retrieved 4 December 2011.
  6. Cobbett, William (1810). Cobbett's parliamentary history of England: from the Norman conquest, in 1066 to the year 1803. Bagshaw.
  7. "Act discharging the Yule vacation". The Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707. St Andrews: University of St Andrews and National Archives of Scotland. Archived from the original on 14 December 2013. Retrieved 4 December 2011.
  8. Napier, James (1879). Folklore, or, Superstitious beliefs in the west of Scotland within this century: with an appendix, shewing the probable relation of the modern festivals of Christmas, May Day, St. John's Day, and Halloween, to ancient sun and fire worship. Paisley: Alex. Gardner. p. 190. Retrieved 2 December 2011.
  9. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 February 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. Houston, Rab; Houston, Robert Allan (2008). Scotland: a very short introduction. Very short introductions. 197. Oxford University Press. p. 172. ISBN   978-0-19-923079-2 . Retrieved 4 December 2011.
  11. "Traditional German Christmas Market" Archived 2011-12-13 at the Wayback Machine Edinburgh's Christmas. Retrieved during the pre-festive season 2011.