I have been really lucky this year to have spent some time at The Sheiling Project @shielingproject. It has been a busy year there and like crofters going back to the first farmers before them, I imagine them coorie-ing doon for the darkest days. The Solstice has always marked a point when the ground was too frozen to work, the animals were few as most had been sold or killed to feed the family over the winter. So familiar but how did crofters mark it? Their pre-Christian forebears would almost certainly have but are there any echoes in our Christmas perperations today?
Traditions are important at this time of year. So many places in Europe have a rich mythology around the Solstice that they have held on to for generations and incorporated into the Christian festival. Some dark, like Krampus, some mischievous like Iceland’s Yule Lads and some simply magical like Ukrainian Christmas Trees decked with spiders and their webs. What about us? Where are Scotland’s tales and traditions?
My grandfather or mother (I forget) did fuss over keeping the fire going non-stop from Christmas Eve which might have deep echoes of traditions like the Yule Log linked strongly to the re-birth of the celestial sun. Everything else seems acquired or mimicked. Why is that?
Of course, the celebration of Christmas was banned by the Protestant church in the 17th century and was not a holiday again for the majority of working Scots until well into the 1950s. Did they wipe out indigenous traditions too?
If a kindly reader has any traditions that you are sure are Scottish and local, it would be a splendid seasonal gift to share them. In the mean time, I raise glass to the great Solstice traditions of the world and to valuing, collecting & preserving them. Slàinte!