My Experience With Christmas in Scotland

Updated on September 9, 2019
Silver Fish profile image

I absolutely love Christmas in Scotland. Its traditions and cheer are truly unique, and there's no place I'd rather be come December.

What makes Christmas in Scotland so special? From good cheer to traditional eats, you can't go wrong with a Scottish holiday.
What makes Christmas in Scotland so special? From good cheer to traditional eats, you can't go wrong with a Scottish holiday. | Source

Scottish Cheer

Christmas in Scotland is a magical time. Cold nights, roaring log fires, good malt whisky . . . a Scottish Christmas is a cosy time of celebration for many. Weatherwise, winter in Scotland can be a miserable time, or dreich as the locals would say. The weather is cold and damp, windy and very dark. Snow often covers the countryside, although the temperatures do not plummet as far as other Northern countries. Scotland's latitude means that day lengths are as short as six hours in midwinter. Christmas provides a welcome cheer to brighten the long Celtic nights.

It may come as a surprise to learn that Christmas in Scotland has only resurfaced relatively recently. Christmas was banned by the Christian Protestant church in 1586 for nearly 400 years until it was declared a public holiday in 1958. Christmas (or Yule, as it was known then) was thought to be a catholic and pagan festival. It was a criminal offence to be caught holding celebrations, and there are records of individuals arrested and charged under these laws.

Today, Scotland has re-embraced Christmas with a passion, and from the Highlands and islands to Edinburgh—Scotland's capital—you will find festivities with a fling! Scottish people have reawakened many old Celtic traditions of Yule, and Christmas is a time to celebrate.

The yule log is a classic Christmas treat in Scotland.
The yule log is a classic Christmas treat in Scotland. | Source

The Yule Log

Many of us know of the Yule log as a delicious chocolate cake in the shape of a log, decorated with chocolate, swirled with bark patterns and sugar icing to give the effect of snow. This fantastic Christmas treat, which is fun both to make and to eat, is still popular in Scotland.

Children may like to use small figures, animals, snowmen and generous shakings of glitter or artificial snow. Once complete it can take pride of place on the Christmas table, reminding us of good fortune and the abundance we have.

Origin of the Yule Log

In ancient Europe an actual log would be used; a large piece of wood or tree trunk which would be dragged back home then lit with a torch made from a piece of last year's log. The yule log would be kept burning day and night for 12 days. It was thought that the world stopped tilting for those 12 days—the darkest of the year—and holding the fire of the magical burning log within the hearth of the home would ensure the return of the sun.

In Scotland a yule log is still a symbol used to mark the year's end; many families will bake and decorate a Yule cake to bring luck and good fortune.

Real Yule Logs for the Fire

Actual yule logs are still made and used as a decorative item in Scotland, although their size is modest compared to their ancient counterparts. A wooden Yule log can be made easily.

A yule log is often made from a piece of fir because of its evergreen and magical properties, but any type of wood can be used. It can be decorated with items glued on from the garden, fir cones, holly, cinnamon sticks, festive ribbon and cinnamon sticks.

Christmas Pudding

An age-old favourite in Scotland is the Christmas pudding, made weeks or often months in advance, stuffed full of dried fruit, treacle, nuts and candied citrus peel laced heavily with brandy, whisky or rum. The eating of dried fruit and alcohol at midwinter can be traced back to Ancient Roman times and throughout medieval history. Christmas pudding has been referred to in the 14th century and became popular in Victorian times as plum pudding or figgy pudding.

In Scotland, making Christmas pudding is a family event with each of the members of the house stirring the pudding while making a wish. Coins are inserted just before steaming, which can be kept by the lucky person who finds it within their portion. Before serving, the pudding is doused in warm brandy, set alight with a match and brought to the table ablaze.

Christmas Food and Drink

Scotland is lucky to have such a wealth of fresh produce on her doorstep. Although turkey has become popular in recent years thanks to American influences, many other roast meats take centre stage on the Christmas table.

Mince pies are popular, which don't contain any meat, but a sweet dried fruit and syrup mixture. Starters will traditionally be scotch broth, a densely flavoured lamb broth packed with barley and vegetables. Smoked salmon is popular too as is many other seafood delicacies which thrive in cold Scottish waters. Crab, smoked trout, langoustines and prawns are all at their best in winter months.

Whether it is a lunch or Christmas dinner on the 25th most homes will have a turkey, goose, pheasant partridge or venison. It is usually served with an accompaniment of potatoes and vegetables: roast and mashed potatoes, various vegetables including Brussels sprouts (although the latter are often eaten out of a sense of duty) stuffing, mini pork sausages and bread sauce. Stuffing mixtures are wide and varied, but for a truly Scottish flavour, the oatmeal-based skirlie is hard to beat.

For dessert, Christmas pudding is a favourite, but many other desserts are enjoyed, from trifle and mousse to gateaux. Cranachan is a very elegant oatmeal-based dessert that can be made the night before, chilled in individual glasses.

Skirlie Stuffing Recipe

Serves 6


  • 300g of coarse oatmeal
  • 2 large onions chopped
  • 100g of butter or dripping
  • salt and plenty of white pepper


  1. Melt the butter in a pan and slowly add the oatmeal stirring.
  2. Cook over a low heat for 10 minutes.
  3. Stuff the turkey. Skirlie can also be served as a side dish to accompany roast meats or vegetables.

Frsh Cranachan
Frsh Cranachan

Cranachan Recipe

Serves 6


  • 60g of coarse oatmeal
  • 300g of fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 600ml double cream
  • 3 tablespoons of runny honey
  • 3 tablespoons of malt whisky


  1. Toast the oatmeal until it is golden brown.
  2. Whip the double cream until it is thick.
  3. Stir in the whisky honey and oatmeal, and fold in the raspberries gently.
  4. Spoon into individual glasses.
  5. Serve.

Whatever the menu there are usually copious amounts of good Scottish whisky available through the festive season. Households seize the opportunity to crack open a bottle of the best malt. In the Gaelic language, whisky is known as uisge beatha or "water of life"—a fitting drink to celebrate Christmas.

© 2012 Silver Fish


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Jan Brianne profile image

      Jan Brianne 

      6 years ago

      Christmas time is a sparkly and enchanting one... beautiful hub!!! :)

    • Indian Chef profile image

      Indian Chef 

      7 years ago from New Delhi India

      I liked the yule log. It looked so new to me and loved the way it looked. And you start preparation for pudding months in advance this is really wonderful. Voting it up.

    • Silver Fish profile imageAUTHOR

      Silver Fish 

      7 years ago from Edinburgh Scotland

      Scotland would love to have you visit Nell.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      7 years ago from England

      I would love to visit Scotland at Christmas, my son has been up there but I haven't got there yet, I only live down south, how hard can it be? lol! great hub! and Happy Christmas!

    • Silver Fish profile imageAUTHOR

      Silver Fish 

      7 years ago from Edinburgh Scotland

      Simplemaui, thanks for your comments.

      You will find a warm welcome in Scotland- whatever time of year you want to visit us.

    • simplemaui profile image

      Steven Hill 

      7 years ago from Wailuku

      I want to go to Scotland so bad. I love photography and that photo of the castle makes me want to come see the beautiful country.

    • Silver Fish profile imageAUTHOR

      Silver Fish 

      7 years ago from Edinburgh Scotland

      Thanks peachpurple, I am glad you enjoyed reading it. Happy Christmas!

    • peachpurple profile image


      7 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      Christmas in Scotland looks so enchanting and awesome especially with the pudding and choc cake. Wonderful hub


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)