Wednesday, December 11, 2013


    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.


How would your kids like a letter from Santa Claus this year? I've designed a simple template for Santa letterhead that can help you make the magic happen. Some ways you could put it to use:
  • Your Elf On The Shelf could bring a letter back from his nightly trip to the North Pole.
  • Use as a little extra convincing for curious little ones asking a few too many questions.
  • Include a special note from the big man in your advent calendar.
  • Use as a thank-you note for the milk and cookies on Christmas Eve.
  • Tuck inside your favorite holiday book encouraging kids to go to bed.
  • Attach to one of those "too big to wrap" gifts as a gift tag.
  • Use as a gift certificate for grown-up gifts, like a special date for your husband or an outing with a friend. 
DOWNLOAD| Grab the PDF file here or the JPEG here.
Print on any color paper. (I used a nice textured cardstock). Do your best at some jolly handwriting and you're done! I wouldn't stress about mailing it; Santa's elves would probably hand deliver letters in a box or rolled up and wrapped with fancy ribbon, right? Enjoy!


I'm pretty sure that just about every parent has whipped up a batch of homemade clay at one time or another. I think we've tried just about every clay recipe we've ever run across.
Some are better than others and some just have different purposes. We have a play-dough recipe that stays soft and colorful for practically forever and won't dry out a long as you keep it in a zippy bag. We make a new batch from time to time and I think the making is as much fun as the playing when its done.

Still, we had a difficult time finding a baker's type clay that we really liked. The typical salt/flour stuff distorts too easily and I wasn't fond of the texture. Some clays didn't dry well... they would crack or get grainy of just plain stink while they baked.

Then we found this simple recipe and fell in love. I don't even remember where it came from... I have it scribbled on a piece of paper in the back of my recipe binder.

Simple ingredients. It does need to be cooked but is well worth the extra time and effort.

2 cups baking soda
1 cup cornstarch
1 1/4 cup water

Mix the baking soda and cornstarch in a heavy pot. Add the water and stir to start mixing. Put on the stove on medium heat and bring to a boil stirring constantly.

In a minute or two the watery mixture will begin to thicken and then will quite suddenly take on the characteristics of mashed potatoes... take it off the stove as soon as it does this and dump it out of the pot onto a cookies sheet in one lump. Cover the lump with a damp dish cloth and leave to cool.

Once its cool it can be divided into smaller chunks and worked with hands... big and small. It will have the smooth silky consistency of fondant! Soft enough for even the youngest of helpers to enjoy.


Roll it out on a surface lightly dusted with cornstarch to about 1/4 inch and cut into shapes freeform or with cookie cutters. We gently stamped some pieces with regular rubber stamps. Don't forget a small hole for a ribbon if you wish to hang them.

It can also be used for small sculptures though it will be a bit more risky to dry nicely. We have 2 small ft snowmen drying on a windowsill. 

Pieces will air dry if left on their own but can be hurried along in an over set to 250.

Dried pieces will be pure white and smooth. Its the closest you can get to homemade porcelain. Sturdy enough to be handled, fragile enough to be precious.


Dried pieces can be sanded, painted, adorned with baubles and sealed. We're planning to paint tonight though I think I'll keep some just like they are.

Extra dough... if you have any... can be put in a zippy bag and kept in the fridge for a long time. I've found that portions kept in the fridge for a while will be a bit sticky once warmed back up with the working of hands. Just work in a little more cornstarch until its no longer sticky.