Location: Western Europe
Tree Type: Cultural

For many years, the observance of Christmas in Scotland has been somber and subdued. Seen as a Catholic holiday, the Presbyterian Church of Scotland discouraged the overt and ornate festivities to which many others are accustomed. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were normal working days for the people of Scotland until very recently, and in practicing Christmas traditions they risked being fined or put into prison.

In spite of these sanctions, several Scottish practices survived and have begun to reappear. Though many families don't put up and decorate Christmas trees, the seasonal decorations are holly, tartan, and evergreen branches. A fire is also kept burning on Christmas Eve to prevent the elves who roam the night from entering through the chimney to cause havoc. Most time during Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Saint Stephen's Day on the 26th is spent in prayer with family, though lots of food is made for Christmas and the larger new year celebrations which follow. New Year in Scotland is known as Hogmanay. For Hogmanay, people in Scotland observe a tradition called first footing. Strangers are thought to bring good luck, and the appearance of the first stranger to enter a home can predict luck and fortunes for the next year. Chicken, potatoes, pudding, and a traditional oat dish called sowans make up the fare for these Scottish holidays.

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