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Christmas in Scotland

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Christmas funfair at George Square, Glasgow
Christmas funfair at George Square, Glasgow

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".

Post-Reformation suppression of Yule Tide celebrations

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The first Act was partly repealed in 1686,[5] when Episcopalianism was briefly in ascendancy within the Kirk.

The second Act was partly repealed in 1712 by the Yule Vacance Act 1711 of the Westminster Parliament.[6]

Christmas became a Bank Holiday in Scotland, in 1871.

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

  • "... the kirke within this kingdome is now purged of all superstitious observatione of dayes... thairfor the saidis estatis have dischairged and simply dischairges the foirsaid Yule vacance and all observation thairof in tymecomeing, and rescindis and annullis all acts, statutis and warrandis and ordinances whatsoevir granted at any tyme heirtofoir for keiping of the said Yule vacance, with all custome of observatione thairof, and findis and declaires the samene to be extinct, voyd and of no force nor effect in tymecomeing." (English translation:[7] "... the kirk within this kingdom is now purged of all superstitious observation of days... therefore the said estates have discharged and simply discharge the foresaid Yule vacation and all observation thereof in time coming, and rescind and annul all acts, statutes and warrants and ordinances whatsoever granted at any time heretofore for keeping of the said Yule vacation, with all custom of observation thereof, and find and declare the same to be extinct, void and of no force nor effect in time coming.")

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."

Daft Days

The period of festivities running from Christmas to Handsel Monday, including Hogmanay and Ne'erday, is known as the Daft Days.[9][10][11]

Post-war period

Christmas in Scotland was traditionally observed very quietly because the Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian church, for various reasons[clarification needed] suppressed Christmas celebrations in Scotland after the Reformation.

Christmas Day did not become a public holiday until 1958 in Scotland, Boxing Day only in 1974.[12][13] The New Year's Eve festivity, Hogmanay, was by far the largest celebration in Scotland. The giftgiving, 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 United Kingdom and elsewhere, Christmas and its related festivities are now nearly on par with Hogmanay and Ne'erday. Edinburgh, Glasgow and other cities now have traditional German Christmas market from late November until Christmas Eve.[14]

See also


  1. ^ Ross, Anthony (Autumn 1959). "Reformation and Repression". The Innes Review. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 10 (2): 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. pp. 23. ISBN 978-0-7166-0860-8.
  3. ^ a b "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. ^ " - Fergusson's Daft Days".
  10. ^ "Dictionary of the Scots Language:: SND :: feast".
  11. ^ "Dictionary of the Scots Language:: SND :: daft".
  12. ^ Houston, Rab; Houston, Robert Allan (2008). Scotland: a very short introduction. Very short introductions. Vol. 197. Oxford University Press. p. 172. ISBN 978-0-19-923079-2. Retrieved 4 December 2011. Christmas became a public holiday only in 1958, Boxing Day in 1974
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 February 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "Traditional German Christmas Market" Archived 2011-12-13 at the Wayback Machine Edinburgh's Christmas. Retrieved during the pre-festive season 2011.
This page was last edited on 31 December 2021, at 12:51
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