Christmas

Celebrate your seasonal holiday dance program with any of the Scottish Country Dances devised specifically for Christmas (see below).  
 
Or why not use the delicious array of sweets and puddings dances (see  the Candy & Sweets or Holiday Desserts and Puddings  pages) any of which would complement a holiday event brilliantly!  Perhaps the guests could bring a buffet dish based on one of the dance names.

Selected Dances

(click for more holiday folklore and background information on featured dances or scroll to bottom of the page for the entire collection)

Stir-up Sunday

Stir-up Sunday is a traditional Sunday before Advent in which holiday baking is begun, particularly for plum puddings or soused fruitcakes. Love them or hate them, when a fruitcake contains a good deal of alcohol, it can remain edible for many years. A fruitcake baked in 1878 was kept as an heirloom by a family from Tecumseh, Michigan, and sampled by Jay Leno on The Tonight Show in 2003. Another more recent archaeological find of the fruitcake kind was a 106-year-old fruitcake discovered in 2017 by the Antarctic Heritage Trust described as in "excellent condition" and "almost" edible.

The Fruitcake

Figgy & Plum Pudding Day

A "Clootie/Cloutie Dumpling" is the Scottish version of a Christmas pudding. Firstly and most importantly, it is a pudding boiled in a "clout," a cloth.  Although flour, suet, dried fruit and spices always feature, regional variations, like the addition of treacle, feature in Fife and other areas. Like all traditional puddings, clootie dumplings come with their own set of traditions. When it's being made everyone should give it a good skelp – or smack – to make sure it has a nice round shape!

Archie's Clootie Dumpling

Gingerbread Decorating Day

Folk tales of runaway food type are found in Germany, the British Isles, Eastern Europe, as well the United States. Similar tales include "The Runaway Pancake" from Germany and Scandinavia, "The Roule Galette" from France, and "The Wee Bannock" from Scotland. In Hungary,  the tale "The Little Dumpling," contrary to the title, refers not to a dumpling, but to the Hungarian version of runaway head cheese! ​ Recipe included: Gingerbread Shortbread with a Nutmeg Glaze

The Gingerbread Man

Poinsettia Day

In Mexico, where the beautiful Poinsettia flower originates, it is traditionally displayed around the Dia de la Virgen, December 12, which coincidentally, marks the passing of namesake American botanist, Joel Roberts Poinsett, who discovered the plant while visiting in Southern Mexico and helped to popularize it.

December Delights

Sugar Plum Day

Tchaikovsky's Christmas-themed ballet debuted on Dec. 18, 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Initially unsuccessful, it later became global Christmas tradition. One of the most anticipated dances, the " Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" occurs in the third movement, set in the Land of Sweets, and is distinguished for its use of the celesta, a piano-like instrument that sounds like the tinkling of bells.

The Nutcracker

the Christmas Season

The kissing under the mistletoe custom is first documented in writing back to at least the 1500s in Europe, and by the 1820s, reappears in American author Washington Irving's collection of “Christmas Eve" stories. In Irving’s day, each time a couple kissed under a mistletoe sprig, they removed one of the white berries. When the berries were all gone, so was the license to kiss.

Mistletoe and Holly

Christmas Eve

Physicists and mathematicians who study this sort of thing have calculated that to deliver all the presents necessary before Christmas Day, taking the earth's rotation into account, Santa will have to travel at 0.35 percent the speed of light. The weight of all the presents (approximately 320,000 tons) and the average strength of a reindeer and the speed necessary, will pose some problems for the lead reindeer, who will be subjected to 13.4 quintillion joules of energy per second! Normally, this would cause them to burst into flames almost immediately after taking flight. The entire reindeer team, assuming only eight are used, would be vapourised in 4.26 thousandths of a second. Since they are flying reindeer, of course, we assume that they may have more power than their earthbound cousins. At any rate, Santa may help fuel them by sharing the estimated 20,655,000,000 calories from all the mince pies, cookies, and milk left for him. Ho, Ho, Ho!

Here Comes Santa Claus

Cookie Day

A Cookie Shine is a cookie-sharing party! In most English-speaking countries except for the US and Canada, crisp cookies are called biscuits (or digestive biscuits), though chewier biscuits may also be referred to as cookies.  In Scotland the term cookie may also sometimes used to describe a plain bun.  The word "cookie" derives from the Dutch word "koekje" or more  its informal, dialect variant "koekie" which means "little cake," and arrived in American English with the Dutch settlement of New Netherland, in the early 1600s. In other cookie controversy, "to dunk or not to dunk" is a custom rife with social controversy - a cookie's ability to hold liquid before crumbling is even studied by physicists! 🍪🍪🍪

Cookie Shine

Figgy & Plum Pudding Day

The sweet plum and figgy puddings of Christmas hail from meatier dishes, and interestingly, rarely contained actual plums or figs! In 14th century Britain, beef and mutton were mixed with raisins and prunes, wines and spices as a soup-like dish. When grains were added to make it a thicker porridge, it was known as “frumenty.” For early preparation for Christmas meals in Elizabethan times, raisins, currants, and prunes (which had come into vogue) were added to the mix and stored like huge sausages in animal stomachs and intestines to be served months during the holidays. By this time, the terms "plum" became a term for all dried fruits, with "figgy" being a synonym for raisins as well.

Shake the Pudding Down

Pastry Day

A Jelly Roll (or Swiss Roll) is a sponge cake filled with cream, jam or icing. In the UK, a similarly inspired dessert, Jam Roly-Poly, is made with a flat-rolled suet pudding rather than cake, then filled with jam and served hot with custard.  For added naming whimsy, this dessert is also called Shirt-Sleeve pudding, DeCleats' Arm, Dead Man's Arm or Dead Man's Leg!  Pastry, cake, puddings, it's all good! Recipe Included: Pistachio Roulade with Raspberries and White Chocolate

Jelly Roll

Saint Lucy's Day

Celebrated in many countries, and particularly Italy, Croatia, and Scandinavia, Saint Lucy's Day, Luciadagen, is a special feast day of the Yule season. It is customary for girls to dress in white dresses with red sashes and to don a crown of candles on a wreath of lingonberries, which are evergreen and symbolize new life after the passing of winter. Other children may dress as Swedish 'tomtar' (gnomes), gingerbread men, and 'stjärngossar' ('star boys') and participate with the rest in carol-singing progressions. Favorite treats for St. Lucy's day are Pepparkakor, ginger snap biscuits, and Lussekatter, saffron buns!

St Lucia Strathspey

Hard Candy Day

Whether it's marzipan, maple sugar candy, chocolate Santas, candy canes, or hard ribbon candy, there is much to delight the eye and plenty of selections for decorating gingerbread or candy houses! Although first made by confectioners by modeling the wavy form around the candy maker’s thumb, by the 1800s mechanical crimpers were invented to shape the ribbons of ribbon candy that we know today.

Ribbon Candy

the Christmas Season

If you're lucky enough to have a Scottish fiddler at your Christmas party, give the fiddler some porter, or something stronger!

Christmas Party Jig

Eggnog Night

Much loved in the American colonies, where access to eggs and dairy (and liquor) was easily available, eggnog (derived from an egg-less concoction from the 14th century, known as posset “a drink made of hot milk curdled with ale, wine, or the like, often sweetened and spiced") is a popular holiday beverage made with eggs, spices, milk or cream, and various quantities of rum, whisky, sherry, brandy and bourbon. Eggnog has the added distinction of being responsible for the Eggnog Riot of 1826, also called the Grog Mutiny, which took place on this day at the United States Military Academy in West Point, resulting in the court-martialing of many cadets of future eminence. Cheers!

The Whisky Punch

St. Nicholas' Day

The candy cane allegedly owes Its distinctive shape to a 17th century German choirmaster, who bent the a hard candy into the form of a shepherd’s staff and gave it to children to symbolize the image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.  As shepherd of his people and patron saint of children, images of St. Nicholas often include a hook-shaped staff called a crozier. Traditional treats for the Feast of St. Nicholas include apples, oranges, nuts, candy canes, and St. Nicholas cookies, a popular holiday spiced cookie with similar flavors to gingerbread but without the molasses.

The Candy Cane Reel

Brownie Day

The  "brownie," a chocolatey cross between a cookie and a cake, shares its color and name with the brownie of folklore, a legendary creature originating around Scotland and England. A Brownie is reckoned as "a personage of small stature, wrinkled visage, covered with short curly brown hair, and wearing a brown mantle and hood". Brownies like to attach themselves to a household and aid in household tasks; however, they do not like to be seen and will only work at night, traditionally in exchange for eiher small gifts of food such as porridge and honey, or for a seat by the hearth. They may abandon a household if gifts are reckoned as payments, and they particularly despise gifts of clothing . The Brownie of Blednoch refers to the literary ballad in which a brownie named Aiken-Drum comes to town looking for work, helps many of the townspeople with their tasks, but mysteriously disappears, after a misguided woman feels he is under compensated for his efforts and makes him a present of a new pair of pants! Recipe included that a Brownie would NOT turn up his nose at: Chocolate brownies stuffed with shortbread!

The Brownie of Blednoch

Gingerbread House Day

The tradition of making decorated gingerbread houses started in Germany in the early 1800s, most likely as a result of the wider publication of the Grimm's fairy tales, with the description of the witch's edible sugar and bread house in the folk tale of Hansel & Gretel. Gingerbread making, however, goes back centuries and is specialized and highly prized art.  In the 17th century, only professional gingerbread bakers were permitted to bake it (except at Christmas and Easter, when such restrictions were relaxed).

Ashbourne Gingerbread

Sugar Plum Day

Originally referring to a confit or sweetmeats shaped as plums, the term "sugar plum" acquired new meaning past the 1600s. If your mouth was "full of sugar plums," it meant that you spoke sweet (but possibly deceitful) words. If you "stuffed another's mouth with sugar plums," that referred to a sop or bribe that would shut someone up. Nowadays, the term plum is still used to refer to an especially desirable thing, such as a prize, or a choice job or appointment.

Victoria Plums

the Publication of a Christmas Carol

A favorite celebratory beverage, punch appears everywhere in Dickens' novels whenever a drop of good cheer is called for, most famously at the Cratchit's Christmas dinner in "A Christmas Carol." Ten years after its publication, Charles Dickens began to give public performances of his work. On performance days Dickens stuck to a rather bizarre, punch-related routine. He had two tablespoons of rum flavoured with fresh cream for breakfast, a pint of champagne for tea, and half an hour before the start of his performance, would drink a raw egg beaten into a tumbler of sherry. Dickens' favorite hot gin punch contained Hendrick's gin, Madeira, dark brown sugar, lemon peel, orange peel, 1 pineapple, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg!

Hot Punch

the Christmas Season

The friendly elves associated with Santa are a recent invention and have little to do with elves of Celtic folklore, who were sinister beings believed to menace livestock and people with illness. The term "Elfshot" or "elf-shot" was a medical condition believed to be caused by invisible elves shooting invisible arrows at a person or animal, causing sudden shooting pains localised to a particular area of the body. It was also the Scottish term for neolithic flint arrowheads (thought to be from the elves' arrows) which were used in the Highlands an amulet or cure for protection from elf shot conditions.

Chasing an Elf

Christmas & Holiday Dance Index

(click for dance description or cribs)

Jan    Feb    Mar    Apr    May    Jun    Jul    Aug    Sep    Oct    Nov    Dec

The majority of dance descriptions referenced on this site have been taken from the

 

Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary or the

Scottish Country Dancing Database 

 

Snapshots of dance descriptions are provided as an overview only.  As updates may have occurred, please click the dance description to be forwarded to a printable dance description or one of the official reference sources.

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