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Scottish Culture & Traditions

Instructor: David Juliao

David has a bachelor's degree in architecture, has done research in architecture, arts and design and has worked in the field for several years.

In this lesson, explore one of the rich cultures of Europe: The Scottish! Learn about some of their interesting traditions as well as some of the most important, as well as entertaining, aspects of their culture.

Scotland

With thousands of years of history and Celtic influences, Scotland is a country with a strong national identity and unique traditions. Scottish people are often known for their open-minded spirit and for being passionate fans of sports.

Scotland is located in the north of Great Britain and has been part of the United Kingdom since 1707. However, there is evidence of settlements older than 9,000 years and the Scottish history is full of invasions and battles for independence. In the Middle Ages, Scotland fought many battles against England. Their settlements in the south of Scotland slowly introduced the English way of life to native Scottish. However, modern Scottish culture still has many influences of the Celtic tribes that populated the land.

Edinburgh, capital of Scotland
Edinburgh, Capital of Scotland

Scottish Culture

There are some features of the traditional Scottish culture that make it unique and are present in almost every aspect of the daily life. The northwestern parts of the country, known as Highlands is more traditional and rural than the urban southeast, which are shaped by more foreign influences.

Family and Religion

Most of the population identifies itself as Christians. However, a large group is Catholic and another sizeable portion of the population is part of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, also known as the Kirk.

The clan structure traditionally defined communities of blood-related members. Each family adopted its own symbols and a strong sense of identity. Over time, it has become more of a historical aspect because symbols and traditions started to identify different locations rather than specific families.

Language

The official languages are English and Scots, but there are also plenty of local dialects of both, mostly because of the many Gaelic-derived words. Many words also have different meanings and it's not unusual for foreign English speakers to have difficulty in understanding Scottish expressions. The Gaelic language is still spoken by some people of the Highlands but it is in decline as younger generations rarely use it.

Food and drinks

Scottish cuisine was deeply influenced by the old clan system. Meat was reserved for the wealthy families, while the lower classes typically could only afford to eat secondary products from those animals. Therefore, traditional meals rely on roots, herbs, bread, dairy products, and animal organs.

The haggis is often considered the national dish and is a pudding made of sheep's organs mixed with onions, oatmeal, and spices. It was traditionally served inside the sheep's stomach.

The Traditional Haggis
The Traditional Haggis

Scotland is also famous for Scotch whisky, traditionally made from malted barley and more recently, also from wheat and rye. It is aged in oak barrels for at least three years, and upwards of 20 years for premium products. There are laws specifying the quality and procedures in the production of Scotch whisky.

Sports

One of the most beloved sports indulged in by Scotland is football or soccer. It is enjoyed by most of the population and the fans are very passionate about their teams. Fights between them have been frequent and many taverns now have non-sport clothing policies, to prevent people from different teams from attacking each other. Rugby is also an important sport with many followers.

Music

One of the most popular and significant instruments is the great Highland bagpipe. Although it originated in southern Europe, it is part of the Scottish culture and is used in many celebrations, from funerals to national holidays. It is an air instrument consisting of an airbag, three drones, and a blowpipe.

Traditional Scottish Kilt and Bagpipe
Traditional Scottish Kilt and Bagpipe

Clothing

The kilt is a popular element of traditional clothing. It is a skirt-like cloth, usually made out of wool with horizontal and vertical bands in a variety of colors. The kilts are worn for traditional events and formal occasions.

Scottish Traditions

There are many interesting traditions in Scotland that often combine Celtic heritage with religious influences. Some of them are:

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