Sun. May 26th, 2024

A Merry Scottish Christmas – Traditions, Events, and Festivities

Christmas in Scotland delivers all the festive charm you’d expect during the holiday season. But the Scottish put their own spin on traditions like colorful decorations, family gatherings, and seasonal food and drink to make it a uniquely wonderful time of year. If you’re looking to have a truly Scottish Christmas full of joy and merriment, read on to discover the must-know customs, events, attractions and more that exemplify Christmas in bonnie Scotland.

Unique Scottish Christmas Traditions

Scots have some quirky Christmas rituals that add delightful character to the holidays. Getting familiar with them will make you feel right at home during a Scottish Christmas!

First Footing

This New Year’s tradition involves having the “first foot” visitor enter a home after midnight on January 1st. Dark-haired, tall men bearing gifts like shortbread or whiskey are thought to be ideal first footers to bring households luck.


Don’t be surprised to see tartan baubles and decorations next to the usual red and green trimmings. Displaying Scottish clan patterns on the Christmas tree and garland is customary.

Troll Dolls

Perched festively atop many Scottish trees are colorful troll dolls. These nostalgic toys are a kitschy regional decorative tradition.

St. Andrew’s Day Celebrations

Christmas season kicks off on Scotland’s national day St. Andrew’s Day (November 30). Scots host feasts, attend ceilidh dances, and hold lively celebrations leading up to Christmas.

Festive Events and Things to Do

Throughout December, towns and cities all over Scotland host wonderful Christmas events full of holiday magic. Here are some highlights worth visiting:

Christmas Markets

Almost every town has a charming outdoor Christmas market packed with gift stalls, food huts, and seasonal entertainment.

Light Shows

Dazzling light displays brighten Scottish streets and venues during Advent. Don’t miss the spectacular light show at the Botanics in Edinburgh.


Panto theater performances are a British Christmas tradition. Actors put on an interactive fairy tale with jokes, singing, and locally relevant gags.

Torchlight Processions

Events like the St. Andrew’s Day Torchlight Procession in Edinburgh combine stunning illumination, music, and marching bands.

Santa Fun Runs

Jolly charity fun runs with participants dressed in Santa suits take place in Glasgow, Dundee and beyond. Spread some active festive cheer!


Edinburgh hosts massive New Year’s Eve celebrations. The party stretches citywide with concerts, street fairs and a torchlit parade concluding in enormous fireworks.

Christmas Train Rides

Vintage train rides run frequently in December, allowing little ones to journey in the spirit of the Polar Express.

Winter Festivals

During late November and December, Scotland hosts genre film festivals, book fairs, winter wonderlands, and other special happenings to liven up the festive season.

Where to Find Santa in Scotland

The excitement of visiting Santa truly stirs up memories from childhood. Fortunately it’s easy to find Father Christmas at many festive locations across Scotland:

Santa Trains

A number of rail lines including Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway offer vintage steam train rides with Santa on board. Kids can share their wish lists and receive presents.


Magical Santa grottoes appear at venues throughout Scotland starting late November. Head to garden centers, visitor attractions or shopping malls to find them.

Festive Afternoon Teas

Hotels like Edinburgh’s Balmoral invite families for special Christmas afternoon teas with Santa making an appearance to the delight of little ones.

Reindeer Encounters

Several farms keep friendly reindeer who often pay Santa a visit in December. Chat with him and feed his trusty herd at spots like Cairngorm Reindeer Centre.

Shopping for Scottish Christmas Gifts

Stuck on what traditional Scottish gifts to buy friends and family for Christmas? Look no further than these ideas to find some truly memorable mementos:

Cashmere Scarves & Sweaters

Scotland produces magnificent soft cashmere wool. Choose scarves, sweaters or accessories in stylish patterns.


Share excellent bottles of single malt Scotch whisky from world-famous distilleries like Glenfiddich, Macallan or Dalmore.

Tartan Goods

From blankets to ties, flasks to diaries, find customizable Scottish clan tartan gear to give as special gifts.

Celtic Jewelry

Hand-crafted Celtic knotwork jewelry incorporating thistles, groves or motifs make for beautiful presents with deep Scottish roots.

Shortbread & Sweets

Gift ornate shortbread rounds, Chiefs of Edinburgh Scottish tablet, or Christmassy Edinburgh Rock sweet treats.


Treat a bookworm to titles by quintessentially Scottish authors like Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle or Ian Rankin.

Delicious Christmas Meals & Bakes

When spending Christmas in Scotland, indulge in sumptuous feasts and bakes infused with Scottish flair. These holiday food traditions prove tasty indeed:

Roast Beef

Forget turkey – roast Aberdeen Angus beef takes center stage at many Scottish Christmas dinners.

Smoked Salmon

Platters of ruby-red smoked salmon from Scotland’s rivers and coasts warrant a place at yuletide meals.

Clootie Dumpling

This rich, fruit-filled dessert boiled in a cloth is a staple. Flaming it adds extra flair!

Dundee Cake

Fruity, nutty Dundee cake covered in crunchy golden almonds makes for a perfect Christmas treat.


Nothing caps off a Scottish Christmas feast better than this silky raspberry dessert made with cream, honey and whisky-soaked oats.

How to Have an Outlander Christmas Escape in Scotland

Fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander novels and the hit Starz television series know Scotland serves as an intensely atmospheric backdrop. Revel in an Outlander-themed holiday celebrating history, nature and romance:

Explore Outlander Film Locations

Visit Outlander set locations from Linlithgow Palace to Doune Castle. Soak up sights brought to life on-screen.

Join an Outlander Adventure Tour

Specialized Outlander adventures offer opportunities to discover filming sites while learning about Jacobite history that inspired the epic tale.

Stay at Outlander-Related Accommodations

Several Scottish inns and hotels boast Outlander affiliations for ultimate fan escapes. Ask about themed packages or Outlander welcome gifts.

Attend Highland Christmas Events

During December, Highland clans host wonderfully atmospheric events involving fireside stories, traditional music, dancing and foods to relish.

Whether you spend the holiday curled up by a crackling fire or are out celebrating Hogmanay through the streets of old towns, Christmas in Scotland promises yuletide warmth and good cheer. Discover the rich traditions, exciting seasonal events and signature touches that make the Scottish Christmas season so special as you celebrate a merry one yourself!

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