Christmas in Scotland was traditionally observed very quietly, because the Church of Scotland – a Presbyterian Church – for various reasons never placed much emphasis on the Christmas festival; although in Catholic areas people would attend Midnight Mass or early morning Mass before going to work. This tradition derives from the Church of Scotland’s origins including St Columba’s monastic tradition, under which every day is God’s day and there is none more special than another. (Thus Good Friday is not an official public holiday in Scotland.); the Kirk and the state being closely linked in Scotland during the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. Christmas Day was commonly a normal working day in Scotland until the 1960s, and even into the 1970s in some areas.
The New Year’s Eve festivity, Hogmanay, was by far the largest celebration in Scotland. The gift-giving, public holidays and feasting associated with mid-winter were traditionally held between December 11 and January 6. However, since the 1980s, the fading of the Church’s influence and the increased influences from the rest of the UK and elsewhere, Christmas and its related festivities are now nearly on a par with Hogmanay and “Ne’erday”. The capital city of Edinburgh now has a traditional German Christmas market from late November until Christmas Eve and on the first Sunday in Advent a nativity scene is blessed by the Cardinal Archbishop in the main square. On Christmas Day, people sometimes make big bonfires and dance around them to the playing of bagpipes. Bannock cakes made of oatmeal are traditionally eaten at Christmas.