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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: 12/13/10

Monday, December 13, 2010

SCOTTISH CHRISTMAS HISTORY AND TRADITIONS

Flag of Scotland

Map of Scotland


   In Scotland, Christmas is known as Nollaig Beag, which means "Little Christmas".  The date for Christmas was one of the many holidays chosen to take the place of a pagan holiday.  Instead of pagan winter solstice festivals.  Christmas was celebrated.  Christmas was celebrated as a primarily religious festival during ancient times, and continues to remain a primarily religious celebration today.  Christmas was celebrated in Scotland until the Reformation.  The celebration of Christmas was banned in Scotland in the 1600's.  Protestantism had spread throughout Scotland, and Christmas was considered a Catholic holiday.  Prior to the Reformation, Scots did celebrate New Years' Day, called "Hogmanay", which included many characteristics of Christmas.  Hogmanay is still a more important holiday in Scotland today than Christmas.

Scottish Christmas Traditions, Decorations, and Foods

The Scots have always had a belief in the supernatural through the ages.  These beliefs probably come from ancient pagan beliefs and traditions.  One Scottish tradition is to keep their Christmas fires going all night long on Christmas Eve.  If you didn't keep your fire burning continually, unwanted spirits would supposedly come down the fireplace and into your home, bringing bad luck.  The tradition of the Yule log is also practiced in Scotland at Christmas time.  During the summer a log is cut and dried.  Usually Yule logs are cut from birch or rowan trees.  On Christmas Eve, the dried log is brought into the house.  The Yule log is circled around the kitchen three times.  The Yule log celebrants make a toast to the log, and place it in the fire to burn Christmas Eve night.  On Christmas morning, people looked at the ashes in their fireplace.  If there was a foot shaped ash, it was used to tell the future.   If the foot shaped ash faced the door, someone was predicted to die within the coming year.  If the foot shaped ash faced toward the inside of the house, a new arrival was expected within the coming year.



   Lighting a candle at Christmas and placing it in a window was intended to guide a stranger to warmth and safety.  Furthermore, the lit candle in the window at Christmas time symbolized lighting the way for the traveling Holy Family.  Bonfires are also a part of the Christmas celebration in Scotland.  People dance around these bonfires.  Of course, bagpipers play their haunting melodies, as well.
   Christmas decorations include hanging evergreen branches.  Colors used in decorating for a Scottish Christmas include the colors and patterns of tartans.  Traditional Christmas carols, like "The First Noel" are sung, as well as such Scottish carols as "Taladh Chriosta" and "Bottom of the Punch Bowl".




    Some Scottish traditional festive foods that are appropriate for both the Christmas and Hogmany seasons are Selkirk Bannock, Venison Stew, Scottish Shortbread, Scottish Blackbun, and Dundee Cake.  The Sellkirk Bannock is a traditional Scottish fruit cake made for the Christmas season.  The Sellkirk Bannock was originally made by a bakery in Selkirk.  It is a festive cake make of flour, sugar, raisins and fruit peels.  Selkirk Bannocks are a specialty cake made for other special occasions and festivals as well as being a special Christmas treat.  Blackbun is a very rich cake made of fruit, almonds, spices and flavored with whiskey.
   A wee dram of Scotch whiskey, of course, is frequently served to family and friends at Christmas time as well as during other celebration throughout the year.




   Modern Scottish Christmas

   The ban on Christmas was lifted in the 1950's, because Christmas was not openly celebrated for about 400 years, it is not celebrated by the same elaborate means that it is celebrated in other countries.  Modern celebrations of Christmas have been influenced by the media and traditions from other countries, such as the United States.  Scots can be found eating a turkey dinner similar to that eaten by people in America on Thanksgiving.  The Scots have been tree lovers since the Druids of ancient times, so pine trees are decorated at Christmas time, as well.  And everyone loves a present, so gifts are now exchanged at Christmas time in Scotland.  Santa has made an appearance and has become a part of Scottish Christmas tradition's in recent times.  According to sources, Christmas lists to Santa are put in the fireplace fire.  When they turn to smoke, they go up the chimney to Santa.  One modern Christmas tradition that Scotland shares with the rest of the United Kingdom is that many Scottish people watch the Queen's Christmas speech on the television every year.


LED CHRISTMAS LIGHTS VERUS TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS LIGHTS


   There has been a big question many of us have faced during recent Christmases.  LED (light emitting diode) or traditional (incandescent) lights?  LED and traditional lights have been sharing the Christmas light market for several years now, and that has made many people unsure of what the differences are between LED and traditional lights.  Why are LED lights becoming so popular, and why do traditional lights still manage to hang on to a large share of the Christmas light market?

LED Versus Traditional Lights

   While both LED and traditional Christmas lights offer their own types of benefits, it can be difficult to make a decision during the holiday season as to what type of Christmas light will work better for you and your home.  Let's compare some of the pros and cons of LED and traditional Christmas lights to make the decision a little easier.

Led Christmas Lights: Pros

   LED Christmas lights "burn" cooler.  Since LED Christmas lights don't really get hot, they don't pose as much of a fire hazard to the home as traditional lights, which feel warm-often hot-to the touch.
  
   LED Christmas lights shine with brighter, bolder colors than traditional Christmas lights.

   Depending on the model, LED Christmas lights use far less energy than traditional Christmas lights.  In fact, the average set of LED Christmas lights use 90% less energy than traditional Christmas bulbs.

   With an advertised typical bulb life of 30,000-50,000 hours, LED Christmas lights can last years, even decades.  Theoretically, using the bulbs only 1,000 hours a year (41 straight days) means you could get 50 years of service from your LED Christmas lights.  If that is the case, you may never need to replace your string of LED Christmas lights in your lifetime.





Traditional Christmas Lights: Pros

   Traditional Christmas lights have a "warm" glow, they don't look as stark and bright as the LED Christmas lights, and therefore have a "softer" appearance that many people prefer.

   Traditional Christmas bulbs do not cost as much to buy as LED Christmas lights, and usually come in longer strings.

   Because the bulb and the color-dyed glass are usually assembled as one component for incandescent Christmas lights, it can be a little easier to replace bulbs on a string of traditional Christmas lights.




LED Christmas Lights: Cons

   LED Christmas light cost more-sometimes 5 times as much or more, than traditional lights.

   LED Christmas light bulbs sometimes burn out by the many, not by the individual bulb.  That means an LED Christmas light failure could mean half a string or more not working.

   Some LED Christmas lights that are socketed (and replaceable) have been known to rust.

   LED Christmas light "flicker".  Non-rectified LED Christmas light go on and off at a rate of 60 hertz, whereas "rectified" LED lights run twice as fast, at 120 hertz.  While you will probably notice the flickering on the non-rectified 60 hertz lights, the rectified 120 hertz LED lights flicker so quickly that you will not be able to actually notice.



Traditional Christmas Lights: Cons

   Traditional Christmas lights can get very hot to the touch, sparking a fire.

   Traditional Christmas lights consume much more energy than LED Christmas lights, that also means a higher carbon emission output than found with LED Christmas lights.  Because of a higher energy bill to run traditional Christmas lights versus LED lights, incandescent Christmas bulbs cost much more to run than today's LED Christmas lights.

   Traditional Christmas lights bulbs tend to last about 5,000 hours-a fraction of the advertised lifespan for LED Christmas lights.

   Traditional Christmas lights don't look as bright as LED Christmas lights.



   As you can see, LED and traditional Christmas lights each present their own sets of pros and cons.  While LED's may be much more energy efficient and brighter than traditional lights, the upfront cost and potential problems with corrosion and/or light bulb replacement issues may have an effect in outweighing the benefits.  Traditional lights, on the other hand, present a certain warmth and familiarity that makes them still worth pursuing, energy costs and longevity issues may play against the notion that traditional lights will suit your needs.
   In the end, it may benefit you to conduct a little trial and error.  If you are new to LED lights, why not pick up a set or two and try them out for yourself.  See if you like the appearance of the lights, the feel of the cool bulb, and the overall ambiance the LED Christmas lights provide.