Closing the 2022 Season Beryl & Sean and the babies want to wish you a Merry Christmas and tell you a little bit about the true Scottish traditions for this time of the year...
Scotland is a land of rich cultural heritage, and much of the Scottish daily way of life is steeped in homemade tradition. Yet from the land of many tales, the country’s pride in its traditions have never been so forefront, or as unusual, as the ones typically associated with Christmas time; a celebration that was banned in Scotland for over 400 years!
Whether you’re lucky enough to spend Christmas in Scotland this year or not, today we’re sharing our five favourite festive traditions that you can try out wherever you are to celebrate the season in the singular Scottish style:
Merry Christmas Scottish Style - Let’s start with the basics. Many in the English-speaking world will be familiar with the standard seasonal greeting of “Happy Christmas”, and although this is a jolly-enough greeting to be met with, if you’d like to say it the true Scottish way, say “Blithe Yule” if you want to use the national dialect, or “Nollaig Chirdheil” if you want to try out the proper Gaelic pronunciation of the greeting.
Set Rowan Alight - Rowan is a familiar feature of many Christmas decorations worldwide. And although this flat-leafed plant looks nice with its red berries, many wouldn’t dream of setting it alight. But that’s very much not the case in Scotland! And this is very much due to its deep-rooted history in the country’s folklore. Historically, Rowan was viewed as an incredibly important tree in Scottish culture and this might have something to do with the fact that it blooms at a much higher altitude than most other Scottish flora. The Celts believed it to be the Tree of Life and banned its uses in construction and labour. Its branches retain an almost mythical air, to be sacrificed only during the darkest months of winter. The tradition of burning rowan runs on this sacred and ancient belief, as the action is believed to chase away bad feelings amongst friends and family, signifying the arrival of a New Year with a clean slate.
Rule of the First Footer - This tradition is so ancient, that it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when it stepped into being, but nevertheless, the rule of the ‘First Footer’ is still very much a firm feature in many Scottish celebrations of Christmas. The rule goes like this: on Christmas Day, the first visitor (or first footer) to enter your abode must come bearing four very specific goods. And when they step through your door, they must be carrying nothing less than a lump of coal, a small (or preferably large) dram of Scottish whiskey, shortbread or a traditional black bun, and some salt. And odd shopping list we know, but this very specific requirement is thought to bring with it 12 months of prosperity and good luck ahead for all the recipients under the roof, and it’s taken extremely seriously in Scotland. So if you want to celebrate Christmas like a Scot, make sure that you arrive like a Scot too!
Make a Clootie Dumpling - There’s never been a time to satisfy a sweet tooth quite like Christmas, and who could do it better than the Scottish? A Clootie Dumpling is a type of traditional Christmas pudding that’s most typically enjoyed on Christmas Day. Packed with suet, spices and dried fruit, and boiled in a cloot (cloth), recipes for Clootie Dumpling are often passed down from generation to generation, and no festive spread in Scotland could be quite complete without one. For those of you who have yet to indulge in this seasonal Scottish sensation, let us tempt you by describing it as something between a fruit cake and a densely light steamed sponge dipped in warming spices. Fortunately, they’re super simple to make in terms of the steps, but just require a bit of time to actually cook. If you’re going to be making one for the first time, a really simple recipe we’d recommend would be this one. We like to finish ours off with a dollop of brandy cream!
Light a Candle To Welcome Strangers - This tradition, known as Oidche Choinnle (Night of Candles), of placing candles in the window at Christmas time is a commonly upheld practice in Scotland. The twinkling little flame is thought to shine out into the darkness, helping to guide home the Holy Spirit as it searches for shelter for the night. Although Oidche Choinnle has somewhat lost its religious connotations over the years, the practice is maintained as a way to garner good luck and good energy for the household from which the candle shines.
Picture the scene: it’s Christmas Day, and your First Footer of the day enters through the door, guided to it by just the flickering flame of the candle you placed in the window. You hold your breath until they present to you from under the safety of their coat gifts of coal, whisky, shortbread and salt. Greeting them with a jolly “Blithe Yule”, you welcome your long lost guest warmly into your home, as the soothing spicy scent of clootie dumpling and smouldering rowan embers permeates the air. Now you’re celebrating Christmas like a Scot!
We hope that these traditions, no matter wherever you might be in the world right now, help to bring a little bit of Scotland’s magic and merriment to your Christmas this year.
If you’d like to get to know Scotland on a more personal level when the New Year greets us, we’d love to show you around town. Explore everything from City Tours to Highland Adventures with our bespoke range of once-in-a-lifetime destinations.
From everyone here at TRIPorganiser, we’d like to wish you all a very merry Blithe Yule and Hogmanay!
Happy Christmas from Sean & Beryl, Toryn & Anwen - and thank you to everyone who's been on tour with us or has been in touch or had made our year in any thinkable way!!!
We love you - and want to say *Keep on travelling with love* !!