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17 Dec 2020

New traditions for Christmas 2020

Written by Lily Barnes – Morton Photography Project Documentation and Digitisation Officer
A brown cardboard box split into nine sections. In each of the section is a round Christmas bauble. Three are creamy white, three are hot pink and two are a bright duck-egg blue. Two of the pink baubles are shattered. The central section of the box is filled with metal pins.
Christmas has to be a little bit different this year ...
This year, in order to keep our loved ones safe and do our bit in the fight to beat COVID-19, we all have to change the way we think about the festive period. Big family gatherings, winter sun holidays, midnight mass, and a trip to a busy Christmas market are all off the table.

Rather than sticking to our normal seasonal rituals – or lamenting that we can’t – we’re going to take this opportunity to try out some new ones. We’ve turned to our places, stories and collections for some inspiration, inventing a whole batch of activities bound to generate some much-needed midwinter merriment. This is going to be a Christmas like no other; let’s make sure of it!

These ideas are all intended to take place outdoors, to enable households to interact in a safe and socially distanced way.

A ceramic pot in the shape of a squashed sphere, flat on the top and bottom. The pot is glazed in a dull, dusty orange and has a design on top of yellow flowers and green, oval shaped leaves.
The not-so-round mandarin that started it all ...

Satsuma rolling

This distinctly un-round ceramic mandarin from Newhailes got us daydreaming about the spherical beauty of all the orange citrus fruits, and how perfect they are for rolling.

Like all good ideas, this idea is adapted from something that already exists. If you’ve ever enjoyed rolling hard-boiled eggs or wheels of cheese down a grassy slope, then you should be a dab hand at this!

What you need

  • Satsumas (certainly the most Christmassy of the segmented fruits, but you’re free to pick your roller of choice: oranges, mandarins, tangerines and even grapefruits will all pass muster)
  • A hill
  • 2 or more players
  • A Tupperware tub or similar container
  • Permanent markers (optional)

What you do

Line up along the top of the hill, with at least 2 metres between each of you. Take it in turns to roll (or throw, depending on your thirst for adventure!) your satsuma down the hill. The satsuma that travels the furthest, without being obliterated, wins. If you’re unlucky enough to have your fruit splatter or squash – along with your chances of victory – please remember to collect up the pieces and take them away with you (that’s what the tub’s for)!

We recommend decorating your fruit before you throw it, to avoid anyone claiming your sweet, citrusy triumph as their own.

If you’re not a fan of fruit, you could even use whole walnuts still in their shells – they have the added bonus of being harder to burst, so are definitely the elite choice for the all-terrain roller.

A black and white photograph of a young woman seated on a rock in a landscape. The woman has short bobbed hair and wears a dark jacket and skirt and a pale shirt. She holds a walking stick or cane in her lap with both hands.
If we found a candy cane this size, we’d hold onto it with both hands too ... (Margaret Fay Shaw on South Uist, c1930)

Candy cane hunt

After the satsuma rolling, we started to think about other Easter traditions that could be adapted for yuletide by replacing ‘egg’ with another word. Lo and behold, the candy cane hunt!

You could use any sweets you like but, as the cane, crook or crozier lends itself to hooking and hanging, we think this particular confection is perhaps the most suited to outdoor (especially woodland) hunts.

What you need

  • Candy canes (or your choice of festive sweet)
  • A pair of gloves (optional)

What you do

Simple! Head to an outdoor space of your choice, hide your candy canes, and get hunting!

If you’re playing with more than one household, make sure to sanitise your hands before hiding your candy canes, and wear gloves while you do so. You could also use two different colours of candy canes (one per household) to make sure that you’re being extra safe.

Remember to make a note of how many canes you hide, so that you’re sure you find them all – you want to leave wherever you play exactly as you found it, so that it can be enjoyed by everyone.

Wrapping up the year

As we’ve been working on our brilliant exhibition, E A Hornel: From Camera to Canvas, we’ve been thinking a lot about all things Japanese. This next idea was inspired by furoshiki wrapping, a zero-waste alternative to regular wrapping paper.

What you need

  • A square piece of fabric

What you do

Any fabric will do for this task – you could use scraps you may have around the house, repurpose something old, or make something new. All you need to do is cut it into a square that’s the right size for your gift. We’ve been poring through all of the gorgeous fabric samples from the Weaver’s Cottage collection for inspiration!

As this is quite hard to describe without pictures, we recommend searching online for the best ways to use furoshiki wrapping to present your gifts. There are lots of methods out there, ranging from the ‘simple yet effective’ to the ‘devilish but decadent’. We’re sure you’ll find the right solution for you!

As furoshiki wraps are not damaged or destroyed during the wrapping and unwrapping process, they can be used year after year. In some households, each person has their own cloth(s) that their presents are wrapped in, year after year. This has the added bonus of making everyone’s presents easy to spot under the tree, so your 2020 Christmas will be zero-conflict as well as zero-waste. If you’d rather your fabrics went on to a new home, you could encourage the recipient to reuse and re-gift!

A painting showing a group of exotic birds in a landscape. A large peacock is perched on a shattered marble column which lies on the ground. Two macaws, one red and one blue, are perched in a tree to the right, and a pale pink cockatoo is perched on a branch to the left.
A baroque bunch of beautifully feathered birds, by Jakob Bogdany (c1700–24)

Festive birdwatching

Have you ever noticed how many birds manage to flap, squawk and flutter their way into the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’? Of course you have. But, did you know that there’s a Scottish version of the much-loved carol that contains – if you can imagine such a thing – even more birds?

What you need

  • Binoculars (optional)
  • A camera (optional)
  • A piece of paper
  • A pencil

What you do

First, take a look at the following ditty. The perfectionists among you might like to learn this carol and carry it away, as the song suggests, but you could also jot it down on your piece of paper to keep it handy.

The king sent his lady on the thirteenth Yule day,
Three stalks o’ merry corn,
Three maids a-merry dancing,
Three hinds a-merry hunting,
An Arabian baboon,
Three swans a-merry swimming,
Three ducks a-merry laying,
A bull that was brown,
Three goldspinks,
Three starlings,
A goose that was grey,
Three plovers,
Three partridges,
A pippin go aye;
Wha learns my carol and carries it away?

In this version of the carol, we lose the French hens but they’re replaced with plenty more birds that you’ve a better chance of spotting in Scotland. We’ve never heard of a shop selling tiny, chicken-sized berets, so we’re not even sure it’s possible to distinguish between a French hen and a Scottish one.

‘Spink’ is the Scots word for ‘finch’, so you’re looking for a goldfinch there. A ‘pippin go aye’ is a peacock, so we’ve included this majestic fellow from Hill of Tarvit to give you a head start.

For each bird you spot out in the wild, you get the same amount of points that there are birds in the song (so three for a plover, but only one for a goose). You get an extra five points if you see a real-life peacock, and an extra hundred if you happen to spot an Arabian baboon. Frankly, we hope you don’t. Whatever you see, you can use your paper and pencil to keep score.

While you’re out looking for birds, remember to be quiet and to stick to the paths – that way you’ll keep your boots dry and you won’t disturb any birds which may be nesting on the ground. Keep your distance and try your best to disturb the birds as little as possible.

If you spot any of this yuletide avians at our properties, let us know by using the hashtag #ForTheLoveOfScotland – we’d love to see any photographs you take too.

Socially distanced adventure trail

As you’ll only be able to mix with a maximum of two households during the Christmas period, there may be some people that you won’t get a chance to see. Never fear! This is a game that depends on the players staying apart!

What you need

  • 5–10 stones (or more, if you’re feeling ambitious)
  • Paint
  • Paint brushes
  • 2 or more players

What you do

Decorate each stone with a design of your choice. You could go purely decorative, spell out a word across your stones, or paint a question on each one. If you need some ideas, check out the Canna cat trail, or take inspiration from one of the artists represented in our collections – we’d love to see your Margaret Macdonald monoliths and Ramsay rocks!

Once you’ve decorated your stones, distribute them around your local area, a park or any outdoor location of your choice. Your friend then has to walk around and find each one – either collecting photographs of each design, working out the word or message they spell out, or correctly answering the questions.

You could ask your friend to do a similar challenge for you, which you could complete at the same time in a different location. There’s potential for a race to the finish here, if you’re feeling competitive.

Please make sure that you don’t use any glitter, sequins or other plastics when creating your stones – sticking to painted designs will mean that your trail has the added bonus of being environmentally friendly.

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