The feast day of Scotland’s patron saint, Saint Andrew, falls just before the real flurry of Christmas excitement sets in, on 30th November. Similarly to Christmas Day in Scotland, the traditional St Andrew’s Day celebration was only relatively recently given national holiday status, with it also being set as an official ‘flag day’, giving the country an opportunity to fly the Saltire in patriotic fashion. It’s also a good excuse to annually revere in the more high energy elements of Scotland’s culture, with dinner parties, ceilidhs, music and other celebratory events all taking place around the evening of the 30th.
St Andrew’s Day marks the start of Scotland’s winter festivals, and is linked with the Christian celebration, Advent, which begins on the first Sunday after 26th November. Saint Andrew was the brother of Saint Peter, who was said to be the founder of the church, with Saint Andrew having started out as a strong – and apparently very sociable – Galilean fisherman. He is said to have preached on the shores of the Black Sea, and brought the first foreigners to meet Jesus Christ – he also met a not so pleasant end, dying on a diagonally traversed cross, which later became known as the St Andrew’s Cross, used on our Saltire. Interestingly, we also share our patron saint with Romania, Greece, and Russia.
The Saltire 2013, East Lothian
The East Lothian celebrations surrounding St. Andrew’s Day are always particularly jubilant, as the area was seemingly the birthplace of our national flag. The story goes that in 832 AD, a Scots army near the village of Athlestaneford, outnumbered by an opposing force of Northumbrians, brought themselves to victory when a Saltire cross appeared as a guiding, cloud-shaped light in the sky. It became the nation’s official flag after the Scottish army conquered its opponents in battle. Events on this year’s four-day Saltire programme include Feast N’ Folk, with renowned restaurants in East Lothian featuring special menus alongside live music, former Runrig member, Donnie Munro, in concert and a ‘dress to impress’ Scottish-themed Saltire Raceday. Walkers celebrate the Saltire with a special edition keepsake tin, a perfect accompaniment to celebrating St Andrew’s night.
Events In Edinburgh
St Andrew’s Day in Edinburgh will see the Grassmarket taken over by Scottish musical talent, including performances from popular folk band Blazin’ Fiddles and singer of the legendary Caledonia, Dougie MacLean. Storytelling is a huge part of Scottish culture and tradition, so head to the Scottish Storytelling Centre for folklore and family tales and traditional Scottish music and workshops. If you’ve got more of a penchant for ceilidh dancing, there’s an array of sprightly options – whether you want to brave an outdoor ceilidh, try out a ceilidh in silent disco mode, or attempt a record-breaking Strip the Willow with hundreds of others.