I love celebrating this holiday. It has become a tradition for me to take a selfie on this date each year, wearing my plaid scarf and thistle brooch. The main way I enjoy the day though is by having a greater awareness of my Scottish heritage and letting my thoughts drift often toward my homeland.
Anyone who knows me even marginally knows of my love for Scotland. My connection to Scotland is deep, something I have felt since I was a young girl when my mother told me about my ancestry. She told me stories about castles and lochs and ancient cities and I fell in love, and have remained in love throughout my lifetime. I’ve had the privilege of visiting this beautiful country twice in the last four years.
The first time I visited Scotland, in 2014, I felt like I had returned home. When I had the pleasure of a second visit last fall, that sense of being back where I belonged was even deeper. For reasons I can’t fully understand, bonnie Scotland calls to me like no other place on earth. It creates an ache in my heart that is only eased when I am there.
So I celebrate every opportunity I get to acknowledge and honor my Scottish heritage. I fly my saltire flag on St Andrews Day, read poetry and drink hot heather tea on Burn’s Night, welcome in the new year with Hogmanay, and wear my plaid on Tartan Day.
This holiday was established in the 1980s but didn’t really catch on until the late 90s. April 6 was chosen because on this date, in 1320, the Declaration of Arbroath was signed, which was a declaration of Scottish independence.
What I didn’t fully realize until today is that National Tartan Day isn’t a holiday celebrated in Scotland. It is a day set aside for people of Scottish descent who are scattered around the world. It is a designated time of remembering where we come from, of turning our hearts and thoughts toward a homeland that we may or may not have visited, and it is a time to don our tartans as a symbol of our heritage.
I am a member of Clan Maitland, whose home is south, in the Scottish Borders, near the village of Lauder. Thirlestane Castle is there, home of my ancestors and home still to distant family members. I love wandering through that magnificent structure, full of the energies of generations past. Last year I brought home printed linens from the castle, one for me and one for each of my children. Greg made wooden frames for them. Mine hangs in my bedroom, where I look at it, and lightly touch it, multiple times a day.
Next year there will be a Maitland Clan Gathering, in Lauder, Scotland. Maitlands and Lauderdales from around the world will meet there to honor our heritage and make new connections and hear family stories.
I’ll be there, excited to meet Scottish family members who live in Scotland and Scottish family members who have traveled in from all the places in the world where they have settled. What a celebration that will be! I’ll be wearing my plaid, of course.