Christmas In Scotland
I heard how in the 1950s and 1960s people would often work on Christmas Day. How in the 1970s people might take Christmas Day off but would then be back at work on December 26, having their longer holiday at New Year. I was told Christmas was a festival imported from England, that the Christmas tree tradition originated in Germany, the concept created by St Boniface and legitimised by Martin Luther.
What does seem to be important here is celebrating the seasons and the turning of the year. The winter solstice, shortly before Christmas, marks the shortest day, the retreat of darkness, the lengthening of days and earth turning to the light in the heart of winter. The return of life and growth to an agricultural land is a cause for celebration.
Living in northern Scotland I witness how seasons rule us and shaped the lives of those that came before us. Our ancient ancestors built monuments that align with the midwinter sun. Maes Howe on Orkney, believed to have been built about 5,000 years ago, is a cairn with an entrance passage leading to several chambers. Up to and after the winter solstice the setting sun shines directly into the passageway, lighting the chambers within.
Outside my window on this late November day snow falls on snow. Walls, trees and buildings are weighted with whiteness. A beautiful Christmas scene in a country where church and community are still a large part of many lives. A country where midwinter festivals are celebrated, where just below the surface ancient traditions of land and life rule.
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