Friday, December 23, 2022

The 12 days of Christmas!



And all the trimmings

All the trimmings must be the three most scary words in the English language. And I’m not even sure what it means- something to do with stressed out mums, supermarkets opening at 6 am, a house stinking of sprouts and numerous nervous breakdowns caused by never finding the end of the bloody sellotape.

No wonder Christmas was banned. Well it was it the 17th century but it’s now back with a very commercial bang.

I can recall my granddad saying that he normally worked on Christmas day, in the shipyards as it was a working day just like any other.  It became a public holiday in 1958. It was New Year that the Scots celebrated.  People get slightly drunk at Christmas and totally rat trashed at New Year.

As you will know from this blog before, we 'first foot'. A tall, dark handsome stranger must be first to step into the house on the small hours of January 1st. He should carry coal or shortbread. The description is one who is ‘not a Viking’ as we were fed up being invaded by Vikings who were obviously short, fair with limited access to shortbread.

The coal comes from a custom of keeping a coal fire burning over the 12 days of Christmas to bring the luck of the old year  into the new year. Nowadays, with the fuel crisis we have here (Britain?  Europe?), the coal fire is kept burning as we can’t afford to run the central heating. Certainly our wood burner is on most of the time but is too insulated by dogs to provide any heat to the rest of the house.


Anyway, I digress.  Before Covid, Edinburgh would have 400 000 people at the street party at New Year.  I think it was slowly being culled by the cost of policing, the dangers of such crowds roaming around and Edinburgh being Edinburgh. Glasgow always had a party in George Square. Alan’s band, Nightshift provided the live music for many years.  I do remember watching a very macho man constantly fall over on the ice rink while the band played the Scissor Sister’s ‘I don’t feel like dancing.’  After the tenth time he fell over I don’t Macho Man could walk never mind dance.

A quote from somewhere says that a traditional dinner at Christmas in Scotland includes broth ( usually made by the man of the house), smoked salmon ( starter ), turkey (  a leftover from the Colonial days, am I allowed to say that?) and Christmas pudding ( if there’s no ice cream going ). Bannock cakes ( nope, that’s New Year) are also popular.               


                                                       Our collection at work for the homeless.

                                                       It was 3 times this when collected.

Boxing Day is now a Christmas holiday and as Christmas Day is a Sunday this year, we are having an extra day off for that.

I also read that fire  can play a huge part of  Christmas in Scotland and that we dance round bonfires   while carrying a  barrel of flames overhead. No we don’t.

Probably true though that much of our Christmas is Pagan. It’s about the solstice, it’s the sense that the days will now lengthen, and that we can put down the burning barrels we were holding overhead  in an attempt to keep warm. Or dry more likely.

 Vikings began raiding us in the 700s. They referred to the Winter Solstice as Jol, which changed to Yule, hence Yule  logs etc.  The Solstice was celebrated for 12 days. Holly and Mistletoe are both steeped in pagan folklore.

In 1560, during the Scottish Reformation, all enjoyment was banned, including Yule, mistletoe and carrying a bucket of burning flames over head.  In 1583, it was announced you could be excommunicated for celebrating Christmas, and singing a Carol could get you arrested. Maybe not a totally bad idea.


So in the intervening years, it’s easy to see how the focus of celebration slipped  from one week to the next, from Christmas week to the first week in January. We still get an extra days holiday at New Year.

Nowadays, the merriment flows, usually from the  neck of a bottle, of Scotch, made in Japan, bottled in Germany.

Have a lovely time wherever you are, be with the ones you want to be with and celebrate as you desire.

I’m away to dig out a barrel and the Swan Vestas.



  1. As I've mentioned to you before, Caro, the MacGregor side of my family insisted on bagpipes accompanying the entrance of the flaming plum pudding on Christmas Day and chunks of coal to my uncle's on Hogmanay, not that the house needed warming in a South African mid-summer. They were indeed Scottish celebrations with all the trimmings, 5,000 miles from Glasgow. Wishing both of you all of the best for 2023.

  2. "All the trimmings" will now join "to taste" as the scariest recipe instructions to me!
    Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year whatever you eat and whatever you're holding over your head to keep off the rain.

  3. Merry Christmas and a happy healthy New Year to you and Alan, dear Caro! J&B