Of Annual Scottish Events
1: NE’ERDAY. New Year’s Day is the largest traditional
holiday in Scotland. It became the central winter holiday in
1560 when the Protestant reformers banned Yule.
25: BURNS NIGHT.
Anniversary of the birth of Robert
Burns, celebrated with a dinner of haggis etc, and speeches,
songs and recitations; the main speech is known as the Immortal
(last Tuesday): UP
HELLY AA. Major holiday in Shetland at which the islands’
Viking history is celebrated, including in Lerwick the burning
of a Viking longship.
(moveable): FASTERN’S E’EN. The Scots Shrove Tuesday,
the day before the beginning of Lent. This was once a major
holiday but today it is marked only by folk football matches
in the Borders.
1: WHUPPITY STOORIE (or SCOORIE), Lanark, when at 6 o’
clock in the evening boys run or walk three times round the
parish church, each swinging round a ball of paper on a string.
It is supposed to be a way of greeting spring.
1: HUNTYGOWK, meaning ‘look who’s a cuckoo’
— the Scots April Fool.
DAY. Started in Canada in the 1980s. It
achieved a high profile when the first major American event
was held in 1998, and it now has its focus in Manhattan. It
is on the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, one of
the sources for the constitution of the United States of America.
(middle): LINKS MARKET, Kirkcaldy. An annual market at Easter
was established in the burgh in 1305 and it seems to have been
held without major interruptions since then. It is now regarded
by touring showmen in Scotland as the start of their season.
1: BELTANE, a quarter-day in the Celtic calendar and the most
important Celtic holiday after Samhuinn, which occurs six months
later. People greet the dawn, particularly on Arthur’s
Seat in Edinburgh, visit holy wells and light bonfires.
HAWICK COMMON RIDING is held on the Friday and
Saturday which fall between the 6th and 11th of June. It dates
from a skirmish with the English in 1514, the year after the
disastrous Battle of Flodden. Other ancient common ridings are
held at Selkirk and Lauder. They all feature a ride on horseback
round the boundaries of the town.
(on the Thursday between 6th and 12th June): LANIMER DAY, Lanark.
‘Lanimer’ is a Scots word meaning ‘land boundary’:
before about 1800 many burghs made an annual check of their
boundaries. At Lanark, this in now part of the burgh’s
(first Friday after the second Monday): SELKIRK
(first Tuesday after the second Thursday): Riding of the Marches
(midsummer): CERES GAMES. A holiday is said to have been held
at this Fife village since 1315, the first anniversary of the
Battle of Bannockburn.
(various dates): THE TRADES, the trades holidays at various
burghs, originally the period when tradesmen took their summer
week, or later fortnight, but now largely forgotten.
(middle): GLASGOW FAIR dates from the late 12th
century and until about 1820 was a general fair for trading
and the sale of horses and cattle. By 1840 it had completely
changed, becoming a huge and varied collection of shows at the
foot of the Saltmarket, spilling onto Glasgow Green. Then people
started to leave the city by railway and steamboat, going ‘doon
the watter’, and the Fair became identified with the Firth
of Clyde and with towns like Rothesay and Dunoon. Around 1960
it collapsed because ear ownership enabled Glasgow people to
travel further, and cheap flights to Spain allowed them to enjoy
(last Friday): LANGHOLM COMMON RIDING.
1: LAMMAS FAIR to mark one of the Scottish term days, still
held in St Andrews and Inverkeithing, where it includes the
Hat and Ribbon Race.
(first Saturday): LAUDER COMMON RIDING.
MARYMASS, Irvine. Originally held on 15 August, the Feast of
the Assumption of the Virgin (Mary-mass), the holiday now focuses
on a week in the middle of the month. In 1928 the holiday was
reorganised so that it now commemorates a visit to Irvine made
by Mary, Queen of Scots.
RED HOSE RACE, Carnwath. A foot race for the prize of a pair
of red hose has been held here at least since 1456.
THE MOD. The festival of the Gaelic language, arts and culture
is held annually in October, at a different venue each year.
31: HALLOWEEN. The evening before All Hallows’
Day, now more usually called All Saints’ Day. Traditional
activities such as guising and dooking for apples are now
being supplanted by imports from America such as trick or treat.
1: SAMHUINN. The beginning of the Celtic Year, and also All
30: ST ANDREW’S DAY. Since 1560 it has been celebrated
only rarely, though now more popular with Seots abroad than
25: YULE. The Protestant reformers abolished Christmas in 1560,
although it survived in a limited form in various places, particularly
the northeast In the 1840s English Christmas started to be imported
and after World War lit became quite an important festival.
31: HOGMANAY Hogmanay
is still a more important festival in Scotland than Christmas.
On the last night of the Old Year and the first minutes of the
New, Scots prefer to be awake and in their own homes, or with
friends. Many nowadays eat early in the evening and see the
New Year in with a party, while some leave eating until 10.30pm
or 11pm and time it so that they see the New Year in at the
end of their meal.