It amazes me how new reasons to celebrate have found me this year. I didn’t discover this one until early in November, totally missing it last year. As St. Andrew’s Day is my beloved Scotland’s official National Day, I spent time researching the holiday and found ways to enter into the festivities from across the Atlantic.
Andrew, who was one of the twelve disciples, is the patron saint of Scotland. He was revered in Scotland from around 1000 AD but didn’t become its official patron saint until the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320. Andrew died a martyr, and was crucified in Greece on an ‘X’ shaped cross in 60 AD, rather than the ‘T’ shape cross that Jesus was crucified on. This type of cross is also known as a saltire, the symbol that makes up the Scottish flag.
Scottish legend has it that he was made the patron saint of Scotland after King Oengus II prayed to St. Andrew on the eve of a crucial battle against English warriors from Northumberland, around 20 miles east of Edinburgh. Heavily outnumbered, the king told St. Andrew that he would become the patron saint of Scotland if he was granted victory. On the day of the battle, clouds are said to have formed a saltire in the sky, and Oengus’s army of Picts and Scots was victorious. The Saltire flag – a white cross on a blue background – is said to have come from this divine intervention and has been used to represent Scotland since 1385.
I didn’t know that story about the origins of the flag until today.
I know there were many celebrations across Scotland today, of Scottish culture by way of traditional food, music and dance. My heart longed to join in those activities in my ancestral homeland. Since that wasn’t possible, I decided to have my own observance in Joplin, MO.
I displayed my Saltire Flag that I brought home from Scotland last year.
I had a simple Afternoon Tea, featuring Scottish Thistle Tea from Edinburgh, Walkers’s Shortbread, and a small pecan tart. I covered my little table with my Lauder Tartan. And drank my tea from the Thistle tea cup that belonged to Greg’s mom, Leta. As the tea was brewing in the white porcelain pot, I played Scotland’s unofficial national song, Flower of Scotland. The sound of bagpipes always brings tears to my eyes. I listened, standing by the kitchen window, looking out on a gray afternoon. The weather was decidedly Scottish, cold with a heavy mist falling. It was perfect.
As I sipped tea, and listened to Scottish music, I colored in a new coloring book. It’s based on the Outlander stories, by Diana Gabaldon, which are set in 18th century Scotland. In honor of the day, I chose to color the page with the thistle, which is Scotland’s national flower. I didn’t finish the page yet, but the thistle is completed.
What a special day I had. I am grateful that I now know to celebrate this holiday every November 30. Scotland calls to me. I love every part of her, however the ancient city of Edinburgh, in particular, draws me. There is much for me to explore and discover there and I will return soon. In the meantime, these opportunities to celebrate my Scottish heritage are much welcomed. Happy St. Andrew’s Day. Slàinte mhath!