"Saltire" by Ben Matthews
November 30th marks the feast day of Scotland’s patron saint, St. Andrew.
Recognized in Christianity as the brother of Peter and first disciple of Christ, Andrew was adopted as Scotland’s national saint some time around the 10th century. It was not until 2007 that his feast day was officially made a national “bank holiday” in Scotland. Though not as iconic an occasion as Burns Night, there are still a number of ways to get into the spirit of this holiday:
- St. Andrew’s symbol is the saltire, an X-shaped cross on which he is said to have been crucified and martyred. The official flag of Scotland features a white saltire on a blue field. St. Andrew’s flags are a popular way to show Scottish pride, and make for a lovely gift. From full-size to party toothpicks, a wide range of saltire banners are available for purchase online. The Thistle and Broom, a Scottish luxury goods dealer, offers the flag design in both blanket and gown form.
- Brush up on your scholarly knowledge with the BBC’s excellent History of Scotland documentary series. Archaeologist Neil Oliver traverses the mountains and glens of his homeland while narrating a detailed account of Scottish history, beginning with the Iron Age. The series is available on DVD as well as a book.
- A number of other countries have acknowledged St. Andrew with curious folklore and rituals. Check out some of these interesting traditions associated with the saint here.
- St. Andrew’s Day parties will be held this year not just in Scotland and North America, but also in such far-flung locales as Thailand and Turkey. Check listings here to see if there’s a celebration happening in your country.
- If Monday’s not your day to go out and party, you can still have fun online. Each year, Edinburgh-based newspaper The Scotsman runs an online “haggis hunt” contest, beginning on St. Andrew’s Day and ending Burns Night the following January. Live webcams are positioned at a variety of sites, from Glasgow to Paris to Times Square. Mythical “haggii,” resembling something between a woodchuck and a platypus, make (digitally animated) appearances on the webcam feed. Should you spot one of these rare beasts, follow the instructions to report your sighting to The Scotsman and you could be entered for the grand prize of a two-night luxury vacation at the highland Gleneagles Hotel.
- And last but not least— Hundreds of participants have already joined Scotland.org’s Online Ceilidh, an interactive site where you can transform photos of you and a friend into customizable animated ceilidh dancers. Search by name or locale to see if someone you know has added his or her picture. (Note: Site works best using Firefox browser.)
A sample of Neil Oliver's History of Scotland: