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Scotland Bans Christmas

Did you know that Christmas was banned in Scotland for 400 years?

An act of Scottish Parliament in 1640 made celebrating Christmas illegal. Christmas was not recognized as a public holiday until 1958. After the Vikings invaded Scotland in the 8th Century, and stayed, they brought with them their pagan festive tradition of “Yule”, which several days and was adopted across Scotland as the marking of the Winter Solstice. Some of the traditions that remain from that time include burning the yule log and kissing under the mistletoe. In time, the Roman Catholic church made Christmas a feast day.

The Scottish Reformation in 1560 saw Scotland split from the Catholic Church and adopt extremely conservative attitudes. Christmas was deemed too indulgent, with excesses such as drinking, play-acting, gambling and dancing. The Presbyterian Church of Scotland tried to secure a ban on Christmas celebrations in 1583. Finally, in 1640,by an act of Scottish Parliament, celebrating Christmas became illegal. The law was strictly enforced. People were brought before the courts for celebrating Christmas Day, and bakers were even banned from making mincemeat pies.

Scots being Scots, however, the festivities were transferred to 1st January,

Ne-erday, (New Year’s Day) and the preceding evening, Hogmanay. Christmas traditions were transferred to Hogmanay and since it was an entirely secular feast, the Church of Scotland tolerated Hogmanay...as long as it didn’t lead to dancing, of course. Christmas remained a working day for the vast majority of Scots, with a 2-day holiday celebrated at Hogmanay. Of course, it slowly eased its way back into Scotland's traditions. As early as the 18th-century people had gradually started to celebrate again behind closed doors and in 1841, the first Yuletide Card in the UK was displayed in a shop window in Leith. However, despite the gradual increase of celebrations in private, Christmas was not freely celebrated again until it was re-listed as a public holiday in 1958.



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