Music to accompany your holiday time travel journey: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/musical-inspiration-christmas-music/
Welcome all to our Holiday edition of Time Slips! I have been quite busy of late between getting ready for the Holidays with my family and making final preparations for my upcoming Time Travel adventure with Crag na dun Time Travel tours. The preparations for this trip have been far more extensive than I would have thought, and it has taken up much of my time. Mrs. Graham is adamant that I be well studied for any possible events of the time and place that they are sending me to? But, more of that a bit later!
For now, We are taking time out from all of our plans in order to share what we feel is important information for all of you might be planning your own trips back in time. Mrs. Graham mentioned that there have been a large number of bookings over this Holiday season. It seems that these time travel packages are becoming popular gifts, and a great many people have expressed interest in experiencing a holiday of the past. Mrs. Graham is somewhat concerned about this and has asked that we put together an informational page as a guideline to the differences you might experience as you travel back in time to what you believe is a more traditional holiday?
I have to agree with Mrs. Graham in her concern for your expectations, and for your safety should you make some grevious error in communication or behavior should you not realize or understand the traditions, beliefs or even the laws of the past times to which you are traveling. For those of you who are planning to travel over the Holidays, it is most imperative that you read this guide- especially those of you have booked travel to 1600 and 1700s Scotland- as this is one of the most popular destinations right now, we will deal with some of this first!
Above all else, you should be aware of what the laws were regarding the celebration of Christmas during this time period. Many of you are planning trips to the highlands and may be expecting some great celebrations of the Christmas Holiday there… that would not be the case!
In 17th century England, some groups such as the Puritans, strongly condemned the celebration of Christmas, considering it a Catholic invention and the “trappings of popery” or the “rags of the Beast“. In contrast, the established Anglican Church “pressed for a more elaborate observance of feasts, penitential seasons, and saints’ days. The calendar reform became a major point of tension between the Anglican party and the Puritan party.” The Catholic Church also responded, promoting the festival in a more religiously oriented form. King Charles I of England directed his noblemen and gentry to return to their landed estates in midwinter to keep up their old-style Christmas generosity. Following the Parliamentarian victory over Charles I during the English Civil War, England’s Puritan rulers banned Christmas in 1647.
Protests followed as pro-Christmas rioting broke out in several cities and for weeks Canterbury was controlled by the rioters, who decorated doorways with holly and shouted royalist slogans. The book, The Vindication of Christmas (London, 1652), argued against the Puritans, and makes note of Old English Christmas traditions, dinner, roast apples on the fire, card playing, dances with “plow-boys” and “maidservants”, and carol singing.
The Restoration of King Charles II in 1660 ended the ban, but many Calvinist clergymen still disapproved of Christmas celebration. As such, in Scotland, the Presbyterian Church of Scotland discouraged the observance of Christmas, and though James VI commanded its celebration in 1618, attendance at church was scant. The Parliament of Scotland officially abolished the observance of Christmas in 1640, claiming that the church had been “purged of all superstitious observation of days”. It was not until 1958 that Christmas again became a Scottish public holiday.
The celebration of Christmas would have been a very quiet, somber and rather secretive observe in private chapels among those Papists in the area.
We also want to address the small matter of that other most revered personality of the season here… Yes, that would be Santa Claus!
A number of figures are associated with Christmas and the seasonal giving of gifts. Among these are Father Christmas, also known as Santa Claus (derived from the Dutch for Saint Nicholas), Père Noël, and the Weihnachtsmann; Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas; the Christkind; Kris Kringle; Joulupukki; Babbo Natale; Saint Basil; and Father Frost.
The best known of these figures today is red-dressed Santa Claus, of diverse origins. The name Santa Claus can be traced back to the Dutch Sinterklaas, which means simply Saint Nicholas. Nicholas was Bishop of Myra, in modern-day Turkey, during the 4th century. Among other saintly attributes, he was noted for the care of children, generosity, and the giving of gifts. His feast on December 6 came to be celebrated in many countries with the giving of gifts.
Saint Nicholas traditionally appeared in bishop’s attire, accompanied by helpers, inquiring about the behaviour of children during the past year before deciding whether they deserved a gift or not. By the 13th century, Saint Nicholas was well known in the Netherlands, and the practice of gift-giving in his name spread to other parts of central and southern Europe. At the Reformation in 16th–17th-century Europe, many Protestants changed the gift bringer to the Christ Child or Christkindl, corrupted in English to Kris Kringle, and the date of giving gifts changed from December 6 to Christmas Eve.
Father Christmas, a jolly, well nourished, bearded man who typified the spirit of good cheer at Christmas, predates the Santa Claus character. He is first recorded in early 17th century England, but was associated with holiday merrymaking and drunkenness rather than the bringing of gifts. Hmmm, it seems that Father Christmas could have been Claire’s patron saint, knowing her fondness for the drink? Except for the fact that he was of Sassenach origin, the rest of the highlanders might have requested his visits as well…
Now, given the fact that Claire was traveling from the 20th century and was a Sassenach, she would have most likely just addressed any requests she had to Santa, or Father Christmas…
Hopefully, she would have made this request privately and not called even more attention to her odd ways and behaviors… such as her reference to stockings by the fire…
Well, fortunately for her, Saint Nicholas was able to decipher her letter and answered her requests!
While the Scots of the time did not outwardly observe or celebrate Christmas, they did celebrate Hogamanay!
Hogmanay (Scots: [ˌhoɡməˈneː], HUG-mə-NAY, Scottish English: [ˌhɔɡməˈneː] HOG-mə-NAY) is the Scots word for the last day of the year and is synonymous with the celebration of the New Year (Gregorian calendar) in the Scottish manner. However, it is normally only the start of a celebration that lasts through the night until the morning of New Year’s Day (1 January) or, in some cases, 2 January—a Scottish Bank Holiday.
There are a number of theories on the origins of Hogmanay. The etymology of the word is obscure. The three main theories derive it either from a French, Norse or a Goidelic (Insular Celtic) root. The word is first recorded in 1604 in the Elgin Records as hagmonay (delatit to haue been singand hagmonayis on Satirday) and again in 1692 in an entry of the Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence, “It is ordinary among some plebeians in the South of Scotland to go about from door to door upon New-years Eve, crying Hagmane”.
Some authors reject both the French and Goidelic theories, and instead suggest that the ultimate source both for the Norman French, Scots, and Goidelic variants of this word have a common Norse root. It is suggested that the full forms
- Hoginanaye-Trollalay/Hogman aye, Troll a lay (with a Manx cognate Hop-tu-Naa, Trolla-laa)
- Hogmanay, Trollolay, give us of your white bread and none of your gray
invoke the hill-men (Icelandic haugmenn, cf Anglo-Saxon hoghmen) or “elves” and banishes the trolls into the sea (Norse á læ “into the sea”). Repp furthermore makes a link between Trollalay/Trolla-laa and the rhyme recorded in Percy’s Relics Trolle on away, trolle on awaye. Synge heave and howe rombelowe trolle on away, which he reads as a straightforward invocation of troll-banning.
The roots of Hogmanay perhaps reach back to the celebration of the winter solstice among the Norse, as well as incorporating customs from the Gaelic celebration of Samhain. The Vikings celebrated Yule, which later contributed to the Twelve Days of Christmas, or the “Daft Days” as they were sometimes called in Scotland. Christmas was not celebrated as a festival and Hogmanay was the more traditional celebration in Scotland. This may have been a result of the Protestant Reformation after which Christmas was seen as “too Papist”.
Considering the fact that there was a Norse migration to the northern parts of Scotland long before the Vikings arrived in southern parts of the British Isles, the Norse origin would make sense.
There are many customs, both national and local, associated with Hogmanay. The most widespread national custom is the practice of first-footing, which starts immediately after midnight. This involves being the first person to cross the threshold of a friend or neighbour and often involves the giving of symbolic gifts such as salt (less common today), coal, shortbread, whisky, and black bun (a rich fruit cake) intended to bring different kinds of luck to the householder. Food and drink (as the gifts) are then given to the guests. This may go on throughout the early hours of the morning and well into the next day (although modern days see people visiting houses well into the middle of January). The first-foot is supposed to set the luck for the rest of the year. Traditionally, tall dark men are preferred as the first-foot.
This next custom of the highlands provides another connection or tie to more ancient Norse traditions and beliefs that midwinter is a time between living and dead, a time when the dead roam the earth among the living.
An old custom in the Highlands, which has survived to a small extent and seen some degree of revival, is to celebrate Hogmanay with the saining (Scots for ‘protecting, blessing’) of the household and livestock. Early on New Year’s morning, householders drink and then sprinkle ‘magic water’ from ‘a dead and living ford‘ around the house (a ‘dead and living ford’ refers to a river ford that is routinely crossed by both the living and the dead). After the sprinkling of the water in every room, on the beds and all the inhabitants, the house is sealed up tight and branches of juniper are set on fire and carried throughout the house and byre. The juniper smoke is allowed to thoroughly fumigate the buildings until it causes sneezing and coughing among the inhabitants. Then all the doors and windows are flung open to let in the cold, fresh air of the new year. The woman of the house then administers ‘a restorative’ from the whisky bottle, and the household sits down to its New Year breakfast.
Now that you have a very basic understanding of what the Holiday season may or may not have included in 1600 and 1700s Scotland, we hope that you do more of your own in depth research before your trip!
We will continue our exploration of past traditions and beliefs with our next discussion of even earlier times and places, and we will see how they still play a part in our present day traditions!