Scotland and Christmas

As we Are getting ready for another bout of crazed Christians trying to get Christ back in Christmas, I am reminded of yet another attempt to ban the holiday due to it’s not being a “Christian Holiday”.

That is because while I am getting ready for St. Andrew’s Day, it hit me that there is the incongruity that my house is decorated for Christmas. Christmas was banned in Scotland for 400 years! For those not in the know, the Scots made the Puritans or Taliban look like Unitarians in terms of strict fundamentalism. John Knox banned Christmas in the 1580’s as it was seen to be either pagan or papist in origin. Unlike the English and New English Puritans, the ban was strictly enforced in law. That meant that Christmas was a fairly low key religious celebration (if celebrated at all). It wasn’t even a public holiday in Scotland until 1958. Prior to then, people worked normally on Christmas day, although the children did get presents. If you want to have a real traditional Scottish Christmas, you should go into work on Christmas day! In 1997/98 and 2001/2002 there were strikes at Scottish banks because the bank staff were getting English holidays rather than the Scottish ones which have more time off at New Year.

Hogmanay is the real celebration in Scotland, although I think that is far more pagan. In fact, one source says that Hogmanay is either Viking or Pagan in origin which indeed makes it incongruous that the Scots celebrate that. On the other hand, maybe it is because the holiday isn’t a pagan debasement of the Lord that the Scots tolerated it. It was just pure out pagan revelry, plain and simple without trying to dress it up in Jesus’ name!
One site about Hogmanay reiterates that thought

Why Hogmanay in Scotland is So Important

Although some of the Hogmanay Traditions are ancient, the celebrations were elevated in importance after the banning of Christmas in the 16th and 17th centuries. Under Oliver Cromwell, Parliament banned Christmas celebrations in 1647. The ban was lifted after Cromwell’s downfall in 1660. But in Scotland, the stricter Scottish Presbyterian Church had been discouraging Christmas celebrations – as having no basis in the Bible, from as early as 1583. After the Cromwellian ban was lifted elsewhere, Christmas festivities continued to be discouraged in Scotland. In fact, Christmas remained a normal working day in Scotland until 1958 and Boxing Day did not become a National Holiday until much later.

But the impulse to party, and to put the products of Scotland’s famous distilleries to good use, could not be repressed. In effect, Hogmany became Scotland’s main outlet for the mid-winter impulse to chase away the darkness with light, warmth and festivities.

Anyway, I am listening to Traditional English Pub Carols as I am writing this and thinking about the difference in Culture between north and south of the Border.  I’m glad to say that I am not the first to suffer from this incongruity as there was a rather famous personage who was important in raising awareness of both Christmas and Scotland.  And who was gonna tell her she couldn’t celebrate Christmas if she wanted?

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