Christmas at the Palace of Holyroodhouse

See the Christmas decorations at The Queen's official residence in Scotland

The Palace of Holyroodhouse, The Queen’s official residence in Edinburgh, has been decorated with Christmas trees, lights, wreaths and garlands for Christmas.

Palace of Holyroodhouse, Grand Staircase, Christmas 2018

The Great Stair looks festive with a garland, wreaths and lights and the Christmas tree in the Throne Room (below) stands out against the newly-installed painting of Charles II. 

Palace of Holyroodhouse, Throne Room, Christmas 2018

Christmastime wasn't’t always celebrated in this way at the Palace. In fact, after the reformation in Scotland, Mass, festivals and church holidays were abolished, and Yule celebrations were banned.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse Abbey in the snow

Despite the ban, some traditions remained…

In the Christmas of either 1563 or 1564, Mary, Queen of Scots (r. 1561-1567) held a ball at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, where she and her guests celebrated the ‘Feast of the Bean’. The ritual began at the start of the Christmas period and involved hiding a bean in a cake: the person to find it would be crowned ‘King/Queen of the Bean’.

Mary, Queen of Scots Portrait

In this year, Mary Fleming, who was one of the Queen’s ladies, found the bean and was dressed in the Queen’s clothes as a prize.

During James VI’s reign (1567-1625) it was decreed that punishment would be handed out to all those who celebrated Christmas. In the 17th Century and beyond, the Christmas ban continued, with Scots instead celebrating New Year.

James VI

The 400-year-long sanction on Christmas in Scotland was only officially lifted in 1958, when the ‘Holidays Act’ made Christmas Day an official public holiday, and Boxing Day was only officially marked as a public holiday in 1974!

The Palace of Holyroodhouse Forecourt in the snow

The Palace of Holyroodhouse was founded as a monastery in 1128 by David I, and over the course of its history it underwent a series of different renovations and changes. Find out more about its history here. 

Images provided by Royal Collection Trust.