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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

YULE n Christmas

Whether you celebrate Yule on the 25th of December or Auld Yule on the 5th of January, you may be thinking about your Christmas dinner. Allan Ramsay (1717) had high expectations of “A bra' Goose Pye”. According to one of William Taylor's Poems (1787), he too celebrated in style “About Yule-time an' Hogmenai, Some chuckies an' a yowe we fell”. Others less fortunate took delight in simpler treats. Blackwood's Magazine (1821) describes “The prevailing Christmas dish among the common people and peasantry ... the national one of fat brose, otherwise denominated Yule brose ... after breakfast, or at dinner, the brose was made, generally in a large punch-bowl, the mistress of the ceremonies dropping in a gold ring among the oatmeal. The person who was so fortunate as to get the ring in their spoon, was to be the first married”. Scottish Notes and Queries (1925) tells us “The baking of Yeel bannocks was another auspicious event. These bannocks were composed of beaten eggs, oatmeal and milk, and were baked on the girdle. Prior to the baking the fortune of each unmarried person present was read by some one skilled in such lore. Each chose an egg and gave it to the fortune-teller”. In The North-east, the Yeel couple or the Yeel fish, usually a smoked haddock, was served to each member of the family as a special Christmas treat all to be washed down with Yule ale, recalled by William Watson in Glimpses o Auld Lang Syne (1903): “The earliest recollections I have of Christmas are associated ... with my being dispatched to Burnie's “chop” for hops, ginger, and a big flagon for treacle, with which ingredients and malt from the “Canal Heid”, my mother brewed the Yule ale”. Whatever is on your menu, everyone at SLD wishes you a very merry Christmas.

Scots Word of the Week is written by Chris Robinson of Scottish Language Dictionaries.