Keeping Up With the Spirit of Christmas – Scottish Christmas Culture

From trees to wreaths and garlands, one of Scotland’s castles is reconnecting Scots with the origins of our festive traditions

Transporting visitors through Christmas past, Castle Fraser in Aberdeenshire has been decked out in authentic decorations from medieval to Victorian times.

Period estates and castles across the country could join the approach in the years to come as the National Trust of Scotland (NTS) trials guidance built on months of research by Dr Jo Riley. “It’s really important that visitors can connect and engage or even relate to what they’re seeing,” Dr Riley said. “It’s a much deeper experience.

Visitors to Castle Fraser will be able to explore the sometimes forgotten meanings behind the traditions, era by era. The medieval period will be centred around the Great Hall, moving into the Georgian period in the dining room, and progressing to the Victorian sitting room.

Speaking on the 16th-century Great Hall, Dr Riley said: “We’ve put the medieval kissing balls, and decorated the fireplace, which was always significant of the Yule Log.”

Each room also has a kissing ball, or holy boughs, showing how the tradition changed from bringing blessings to a modern-day kiss under the mistletoe.

Speaking on how the symbolism of still popular traditions became less recognised, Dr Riley said: “There was much more superstition and not just knowing the meaning but belief in them. Religion was so important that everybody did believe the superstitions and religious meanings behind things.”