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Let's Have a Cèilidh

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Scotland is land of many proud and slightly quirky traditions. One of these is the cèilidh (pronounced "kay-lee"), which is the name given to a party that involves (a subset of) Scottish country dancing. Usually takes place at weddings but can happen at other social functions. Music is usually provided by a band with accordions, fiddles and drums. If there are a lot of newbies present, someone from the band will usually call out instructions. One of the better known ceilidh dances is ''The Gay Gordons''.

Ceilidhs are still popular in Real Life, with most Scottish kids being taught the dances at school from the age of about 6 or 7 onward, usually at Christmas time.

Happens a lot in Ireland too, and cities with a large Irish community where traditional music is played. In Irish (rather than Scots Gaelic), it's spelled céilí.


A Sub-Trope of Dances and Balls.


Comic Books

  • The X-Men mini-series "True Friends" starts out with Kitty Pryde and Rachel Summers at a cèilidh.



  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: The Yule Ball has elements of this, moreso in the film than the book. It was a nice touch to have Professor McGonagall be the one who gives the dance lessons. Scottish audiences remember the trauma of being the one student forced to dance with the teacher.
  • The villagers have one at the start of Another Time, Another Place.
  • Local Hero spends a good deal of time at the village ceilidh - just one more reason for American oil exec Mac to want to stay.
  • A pivotal scene in Titanic (1997) features an underdecks ceilidh, with Gaelic Storm playing the music.


  • The Nac Mac Feegle in the Tiffany Aching Discworld novels love a good "cailey", with the flexing o' the knees and the flying o' the kilts. Their favourite dance is the Five-Hundred-And-Twelvesome Reel.

Live-Action TV

  • The 2012 Downton Abbey Christmas Special featured the MacClares hosting a ceilidh, although they called it a "Ghillies' Ball" since it doubled as a servants' ball.note 
  • The High Life: One episode, appropriately titled Birl, featured a staff cèilidh.



  • The first part of the second act of Riverdance takes place at one. Mood Whiplash sets in when you realise that it's an “American wake”, a going-away party for those emigrating to America, and that most of the participants will never meet each other again.

Video Games

  • In Civilization V, the Celt civ builds cèilidh halls instead of opera houses. They provide as much culture as a standard opera house, but they give more happiness.