Why Was Celebration Of Christmas, Easter, Midsummer And Saint's Day Forbidden In Scotland?

Why Was Celebration Of Christmas, Easter, Midsummer And Saint’s Day Forbidden In Scotland?

Conny Waters – Icestech.info – It may sound somewhat surprising, but the celebration of Christmas, Easter, Midsummer, and Saint’s Day was forbidden for a very long time in Scotland.

Most Scots are Christians, but Christmas has been regarded as an un-Christian event. Only in the last 50 years has this attitude changed, and Scots have embraced the Christmas celebration.

Why Was Celebration Of Christmas, Easter, Midsummer And Saint's Day Forbidden In Scotland?

The Christmas Tree (1911) by Albert Chevallier Tayler – Credit: Public Domain

The religious problem emerged in 1560 when Scotland split from the Catholic Church. The situation was so bad that in 1583, the Glasgow Kirk at St Mungo’s Cathedral ordered the excommunication of those who celebrated Yule. In other parts of the country, you could get into trouble just for singing Christmas carols, an act that was considered a serious crime, according to Historic Environment Scotland. The celebration ban was not restricted to Christmas.

According to Todd Margo, “the Reformed Kirk of Scotland has a reputation for vigorous repression of festivity hardly to be surpassed by any other Protestant church.

From 1560 on, the authorities if the kirk from local session to General Assembly waged a stern and ongoing campaign against the celebration of Yule, Easter, May Day, Midsummer, and saint’s day; against feasting, whether at marriages or wakes; against Sunday sports and dancing and guising – in short against anything that might attract newly Reformed laity from the central Protestant focus on the sermon, the Bible, and godly life of moral discipline and prayer.

Their goals were both negative and positive. They were intent on quashing popish superstition partly because they were convinced that its persistence helped explain the recurrence of plague, famine, and other divine judgements on the land.

Easter eggs

Easter was also banned in ancient Scotland. Credit: Public Domain

In more positive sense, they were trying to clear the way for construction of a new vision of the good life – one that exalted word over image and discipline over ritual, and in which community cohesion was achieved by shared Protestant identity and the common goal of a devout and orderly society.” 1

After years of controversy, the 1640 Act of Parliament of Scotland made the celebration of Yule illegal. This ban was repealed in 1712, but the Church still opposed strongly against all celebration that did not reflect what was written in the Bible.

It’s no wonder that being left without the opportunity to embrace Christmas properly, the Scots considered Hogmanay their New Year celebration very important.

But being Christians, the Scots had difficulties accepting Christmas was not part of their yearly tradition.

On December 27, 1883, newspapers reported that “the popularity of Christmas Day, both as a public holiday and a Church festival, is extending very rapidly”.

“This year there has been a marked increase in the observance of the season. In most of the towns the- banks, several of the public works and places of business were closed, while a more than usually lavish display of evergreens and other Christmas decorations was observable,” an article in the Morning Post said. 2

It added: “Midnight masses and special services were celebrated in the various places of worship and the “goodwill” which characterizes the season took the form in many places of donations and treats to tho children, the aged, and the poor.”

Yet, it wasn’t until the late 1950 Christmas celebrations entered most Christian homes in Scotland, and today one cannot imagine it has ever been different, but it has.

Updated on December 7, 2021

Written by Conny Waters – Icestech.info Staff Writer

Copyright © Icestech.info All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part without the express written permission of Icestech.info

Expand for references

  1. Todd, Margo. “Profane Pastimes and the Reformed Community: The Persistence of Popular Festivities in Early Modern Scotland.” Journal of British Studies39, no. 2 (2000): 123-56.
  2. Alsion Campsie – When celebrating Christmas was illegal in Scotland, The Scotsman

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