Celtic Sun Worship
In ancient times the Celts of Scotland celebrated the great fire festival of the winter solstice. At the solstice, the sun was reborn, with light and warmth emanating once more from this golden sphere of life and eternal energy.
The tree worshipping Druids also revered the evergreen and the oak, with its magical mistletoe, during this two week festival of the return of the sun. The eighth century influence of the Scandinavian Vikings added Germanic elements to the celebration, such as the burning of great bon fires and the shamanic magic of Odin.
In the late middle ages, the Catholic church expropriated the winter solstice celebration, replacing sun worship with son worship. When the Protestant reformation came in the sixteenth century, the Protestants proclaimed that this winter Bacchanalia was pagan and Papist and that the Scots should not celebrate it.
Until the 1950s, Christmas was not celebrated in Scotland. Since that time, the winter holiday has grown in popularity until it now very much resembles Christmas in the United States, with its gift giving and Santa Claus and intemperate feasting, and decorated Christmas trees, with stockings hung by the fire. What is unique about the Scottish holiday celebration can be seen in the various and varied cities of Scotland.
Cities of Light and Sound
Glasgow is remarkable for its enormous, holiday skating rink. Edinburgh pays homage to the winter solstice with a tremendous fire works display. Stirling offers the opportunity to experience an Epicurean “Spirit of Christmas Present” dinner at Stirling Castle. Aberdeen and Inverness have extraordinary displays that create symphonies of light.
On Christmas day throughout Scotland can be seen huge bon fires, which reflect in flame the ancient Germanic-Scandinavian traditions. These bon fires and scintillating lights are, however, merely a warm up for the titanic, Scottish New Year celebration, Hogmanay.
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