I can’t take credit for the following article, however I thought it was good enough to share as is.
By Rauncie Kinnaird
While many of us celebrate modern Christmas traditions of decorating Christmas trees and waiting for Santa, the Celts celebrated the Winter Solstice. The Druids felt that the sun stood still for 12 days from Christmas Eve to January 6th. A Yule log was burned for light on those days. Its charred remains protected the house for the rest of the year. Mistletoe, a sign of fertility, was hung in the house with other greenery as a symbol of life in the darkness.
The Scots believe that on Christmas Eve, a raging fire keeps mischievous elves from coming down the chimney. On Christmas Day, people dance around bonfires while listening to bagpipes and enjoying oatmeal cake. The biggest celebrations happen on Hogmanay, New Year’s Eve. These involve “first footing”, where the first person to set foot in a house in a New Year is said to bring either good or bad luck, depending on their hair color. The Night of Candles lights the way for the Holy family, first footers, and Mummers. Mummers dressed in masks and travelled from house to house for music and dancing. The home owners would have to guess who they were. On New Year’s Eve, they would circle houses beating on the walls to drive out the old year while saying a special rhyme to request entry for food & drink.
In Ireland, the celebration lasts from Christmas Eve until Epiphany on January 6th. They light red candles decorated with holly sprigs on Christmas Eve. The women bake a seed cake for each person and three puddings for Christmas, New Year’s and the Twelfth Night. On Christmas evening, milk and bread is left out and the door was left unlocked as a symbol of hospitality. St. Stephen’s Day, Dec. 26th, is filled with football and meetings. The Wren Boys Procession is a fun event for boys who would dress up and go door to door singing and playing music while holding a Holly bush on a stick. They would say that a Wren was hiding in the bush and they needed money to feed the starving wren. Actually, the money is for them!
The Welsh are known for their wonderful singing voices and caroling, known as eistoddfodde, is a very popular Christmas activity. In some communities, people gather in a public area to announce who has submitted the best music for a new carol. This carol is added to all the rest that are known and sung in Wales. In some areas, a villager is chosen to be the Mari llwyd, who travels around the town in white clothing while carrying a horse’s skull on a stick. Anyone given the “bite” by the horse’s jaws must pay a fine. One of the popular sweets for this holiday is Taffy. Christmas goose is also a meal must. Santa gets no cookies and milk; instead, mince pies and a bottle of Guinness!
They also maintain the English traditions of holly, mistletoe, pudding, stockings, and snow.