Journey 334: St. Andrew’s Day – Scotland’s National Day

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! 
  

You can listen to Flower of Scotland Bagpipes HERE

Journey 96: National Tartan Day

tartan day get your plaid on

What a perfect holiday to celebrate, for me! I don’t know how I missed this celebration last year, however, I am happy to have discovered it in time for this year.

Tartan Day is a recognition and celebration of Scottish heritage. It is celebrated on April 6th each year in the United States. April 6th was chosen to commemorate the date that the Declaration of Arbroath, the declaration of Scottish independence, was signed in 1320.

It is estimated that there are more than 6 million people in the US who claim Scottish descent. Although the first Tartan Day was celebrated in New York in 1982, little was done to follow up the event. In 2004 the National Capital Tartan Day Committee, a group of Scottish-American organizations, lobbied the House of Representatives. The following year, House Resolution 41 was unanimously adopted that designates April 6 as National Tartan Day.

Four years later, President George W Bush signed a Presidential Proclamation. The proclamation reads, in part:

Americans of Scottish descent have made enduring contributions to our Nation with their hard work, faith, and values. On National Tartan Day, we celebrate the spirit and character of Scottish Americans and recognize their many contributions to our culture and our way of life.

Scotland and the United States have long shared ties of family and friendship, and many of our country’s most cherished customs and ideals first grew to maturity on Scotland’s soil. The Declaration of Arbroath, the Scottish Declaration of Independence signed in 1320, embodied the Scots’ strong dedication to liberty, and the Scots brought that tradition of freedom with them to the New World. From the evocative sounds of the bagpipes to the great sport of golf, the Scots have also left an indelible mark on American culture.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 6, 2008, as National Tartan Day. I call upon all Americans to observe this day by celebrating the continued friendship between the people of Scotland and the United States and by recognizing the contributions of Scottish Americans to our Nation.

tartan day close up

I celebrated the day by listening to Red Hot Chilli Pipers, a rock bagpipe band, as I drove in the car. And this afternoon, I added my clan tartan to my outfit by draping a tartan scarf around my shoulders and securing it with a thistle brooch. I am a member of the Maitland Clan, which includes Lauderdales. I had the privilege of visiting Lauder, Scotland last year and touring the home of my ancestors, Thirlestane Castle. Distant cousins still occupy the castle today. The plaid I wore this afternoon is actually the Lauder Tartan. The Maitland Tartan is private. I am allowed to wear it, but I must order it online and my membership in the clan will be checked. The shops in Scotland, while they carried many, many other clan tartans, could not carry mine. One of my journeys this year will be to purchase my first Maitland Clan Tartan, in a scarf or shawl or throw. Someday, I’ll own a Maitland Tartan kilt!

Trisha Telep, in her book “The Mammoth Book of Scottish Romance”, humorously wrote, “Any self respecting Scot knows that a good tartan is the solution to everything: it tells you where you are, where you belong, who your friends and family are. Forget the Vikings: those guys just can’t hold a candle to a delicious battle-weary warrior whose fighting skills and wicked sex appeal have spawned a thousand Scottish heartthrobs.”

I smiled over the image that sprang to mind of those delicious battle-weary warriors. And decided it was time to watch another episode of Outlander! I love the part about knowing where you are, where you belong, who your friends and family are. The clan and its tartan are about connection and being a part of something larger than myself, something with ancient roots that sink deeply into the fertile Scottish soil. That’s my clan, and my people. Those are my roots. That’s my homeland. I am Scottish. I am happy to be.

tartan day cindy