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.
(click for more holiday folklore and background information on featured dances or scroll to bottom of the page for the entire collection)
Already?! There's no cake with such a large percentage of admirers and detractors as the ubiquitous holiday fruitcake! Coming early this year, "Stir-up Sunday" is traditionally the Sunday before Advent to begin holiday baking, particularly for plum puddings or soused fruitcakes. Love them or hate them, when a fruitcake contains a good deal of alcohol and sugar it can remain edible for many years! Many antique fruitcakes remain extant and are cherished by their owners. Journalist Russell Baker claimed to be in possession of a fruitcake that a long-dead relative had baked in 1794 as a Christmas gift for President George Washington. Washington allegedly sent it back with a note explaining that it was “unseemly for Presidents to accept gifts weighing more than 80 pounds, even though they were only eight inches in diameter.” Another recent archaeological find of the fruitcake kind was a 106-year-old fruitcake discovered in 2017 by the Antarctic Heritage Trust in a hut on Cape Adare, part of the 1913 Terra Nova expedition let by Robert Falcon Scott. Wrapped in paper and the remains of a tin, the fruitcake was deemed "in excellent condition," according to the trust, and looking and smelling "almost edible"! 🍰 🍍 🍐 🍋 🍒
St. Nicholas' Day
Happy St. Nicholas' Day! If you've escaped the Krampus and left out your shoes last night, you may have received a treat from St. Nicholas! On the eve of St. Nicholas, many children set out shoes filled with carrots and hay on the for St. Nick’s horse (or donkey) hoping to receive small gifts such as fruits, nuts, chocolate, candies, cookies, coins, or poems and riddles! One such small gift of candy might be a candy cane! 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 as 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. Besides candy canes, other traditional treats for the feast of St. Nicholas include St. Nicholas cookies, a popular holiday spiced cookie with similar flavors to gingerbread and can include cloves, anise, pepper, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, but without the molasses! 🎅🏻 🍬
The Candy Cane Reel
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
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.
Saint Lucy's Day
St. 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. Originally celebrated on the solstice (in the old Julian calendar) 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! Recipe included! 🕯️
St Lucia Strathspey
Charles Dickens' '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!
the Christmas Season
The Christmas Cracker became popular in Victorian times beginning in 1847, when confectioner Tom Smith (1823–1869) of London created the crackers to help flagging sales of his bon-bon sweets which he sold in a twist of paper. Smith started by inserting love messages into the wrappers of the sweets (similar to fortune cookies) but then added the "crackle" and "bang" mechanism allegedly after hearing the crackle of a log he had just put on a fire! 🎉 👑 🎄
Deb's Christmas Cracker
A Cookie Shine is a cookie-sharing party! In most English-speaking countries except for the US and Canada, crisp cookies are called biscuits, though chewier biscuits may also be referred to as cookies. In Scotland the term cookie may also sometimes be 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! 🍪🍪🍪
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. The tradition comes from the days before people had ovens and so cooked much of their food by boiling ingredients in huge pots. Although flour, suet, dried fruit and spices always feature, regional variations, like the addition of treacle, feature in Fife and other areas. And like all traditional puddings, clootie dumplings come with their own set of traditions. When it's being made everyone in the household should give it a good skelp – or smack – to make sure it has a nice round shape! Serve with custard. 🎄 🥮
Archie's Clootie Dumpling
Bûche de Noël Day
A Yule log (or bûche de Noël) is a traditional holiday dessert served near Christmas, especially in Belgium, France, Switzerland, Canada, Lebanon and several former French colonies, as well as the United Kingdom and Catalonia. Made of sponge cake to resemble a miniature actual Yule log, it is a form of sweet roulade, swiss roll, or jelly roll - a sponge cake filled with cream, jam or icing. In the UK, a similarly inspired everyday 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, especially during the holiday season! Recipe Included: Pistachio Roulade with Raspberries and White Chocolate
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
Sugar Plum Day
Tchaikovsky's famous Christmas-themed ballet, "The Nutcracker" debuted on Dec. 18, 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Initially unsuccessful, it has now become a global Christmas tradition and an annual opportunity at ballet studios for aspiring ballerinas all over the world. Many highland dance studios and even traditional ballet companies also celebrate the season with their own Scottish Dance themed Nutcracker performances or with a kilt or two appearing in one or more scenes! One of the most anticipated dances of the ballet, the " Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" occurs in the third movement, set in the Land of Sweets, and is distinguished for its memorable use of the celesta, a piano-like instrument that sounds like the tinkling of bells! 🌰 🎄 🎁 🩰
Christmas Candy Day
Although one of the most distinctive and recognized of holiday candies, ribbon candy has the dubious honour of being one of the most disliked of Christmas candies (perhaps for its unwieldy shape for eating and for its incongruously disappointing flavor). In fact, some people are surprised to learn that it is even edible! Regardless, whichever confectionery vision dances in your head - be it marzipan, maple sugar candy, chocolate Santas, candy canes, or even 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 weaving and twisting mechanical crimpers were invented to shape the ribbons of ribbon candy that we recognize today. 🎄 🍭 🍬
Night of the Krampus (Krampusnacht)
One thing people certainly didn't bother with in the old days was concern over child psychology. The Krampus of European folklore historically comes around the night of December 5th, in tandem with St. Nicholas. While St. Nicholas will put candy in the shoes of good kids and birch twigs in the shoes of the bad, the terrifying goat-demon, the Krampus, has a particular specialty in punishing naughty children! Legend has it that throughout the Christmas season, misbehaved kids are beaten with birch branches or can disappear, stuffed into Krampus' sack and hauled off to his lair to be tortured or eaten! This wonderful concept was popularly illustrated in the 1800s in the form of Krampuskarten, holiday cards that people would exchange for a bit of holiday cheer! Merry Krampus!
The Naughty Child
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
Christmas Lights Night
One of the magical mysteries of Christmas is ... if Christmas lights spend all year in a stationary box, how do they manage to arrange themselves into such spectacular tangles and snarls?! Physicists have studied this Yuletide variant of knot theory by placing strings of various lengths and stiffness in a box, shaking it around, and studying the number of knots that form. Apparently, and we know this intuitively, it takes “surprisingly little motion” for knots to form, and it’s much easier to accidentally form a knot than undo one, allowing knots to accumulate! "Entanglements" of this sort started in 1882 when Edward Johnson, an inventor in Thomas Edison's lab, came up with the electrifying idea of an alternative to the traditional candles on a tree, which were lovely, but a fire hazard. Johnson hand-wired 80 red, white and blue light bulbs and strung them together around a cut tree, placed the trunk on a revolving pedestal, and powered it all by a generator. It was an instant sensation! In 1894 President Cleveland put electric lights on the White House tree, and by the 1930s, colored bulbs and cones were everywhere during Christmas season and most likely tangling themselves during the rest of the year. Today, light displays are synchronized to music, projected onto buildings, limited only by one's imagination, energy bills, and your neighbor's tolerance. 🌟 🎄 🌟
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).
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.
the Christmas Season
In the Victorian language of the flowers, the meaning ascribed to the mistletoe plant is "Kiss me" or "Affection." Mistletoe is a hemiparasitic plant (a plant parasitic under natural conditions, but photosynthetic to some degree) that appears visibly green on trees that have gone dormant in the winter, collected for Christmas celebrations. The ancient custom of kissing under the mistletoe is first documented in 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! ❤️🌱 💚