Most Famous Customs in Scotland

Firework Display - Hogmanay Street Party

Image by foxypar4 via Flickr

The Scots are a proud people with a rich heritage steeped in culture, custom and tradition. And many of the Scottish traditions have been carried on for centuries in Celtic cultures and by immigrants around the world.

Robert Burns
The Burns Night Supper is a dinner event commemorating Robert Burns, celebrated on the poet’s birthday on January 25. Friends and family will assemble for a traditional haggis meal, accompanied by a reading of his poems and speeches, followed by a group sing-a-long to the Robert Burns’ songs.

Scottish Christmas
Scottish Christmas is celebrated on December 25, similar to the Christmas observance around the world. However, a few differences set this Scottish-styled holiday apart. The traditional Christmas tree decorations were branches of fresh holly with berries, accented with homemade baubles such as colorful paper chain links and uniquely crafted ornaments. In addition, the Scottish Christmas tree is adorned with tartan, with a central color theme chosen each year. Red, green or blue tartan pattern bows and ribbons would grace the tree in honor of the Scottish clans.

January is also host to another Scottish tradition known as Hogmanay, a celebration commencing on New Year’s Eve. Observance of Hogmanay begins with a thorough cleaning of the house, called “the redding”, or an action of to make the house “ready” for the new year. Proper preparation for the Hogmany celebration must include a Rowan tree branch placed over the entrance door, along with a piece of Christmas mistletoe to ward off any sickness that might make its way to the household in the new year. And to avoid back luck coming through the door, no one was allowed to cross the threshold before the stroke of midnight. However, once the twelve o’clock chimes do ring, the revelers would sound-off their noise makers in attempt to frighten away evil spirits. Finally, with the back door left open to cast away the old year, the front door is opened to welcome in the new.

The modern-day practice of Halloween is deeply rooted in Scottish history with the observance of the Celtic holiday, Samhain. Originally a Druid festival to celebrate the end of summer and usher in the autumn solstice, Samhain on October 31 was created to commune with the spirits and ward off bad luck in the coming year. Scots would light bonfires as a warning to the evil ones and afford a measure of protection around their homes. In addition, Samhain participants were prone to pranks, many of which are still popular on Halloween today.