St. Andrew's Day
St. Andrew's Day
St. Andrew’s Day is the Scottish national holiday. On November 30, every building with a flagpole displays Saltire, the official banner of Scotland representing the x-shaped cross on which St. Andrew was executed. Colorful celebrations are held in most towns and cities, varying from music festivals to village fairs and traditional ceilidh dancing.
St. Andrew is the patron of Scotland, which is why in 2006 a bill was passed to make his day a bank holiday. The rest of Great Britain does not celebrate the date as vigorously as the Scots, who then present their national pride, the rich folklore. The holiday sometimes takes the form of an esoteric ritual, because on the night of November 29/30, young women perform divinations in order to predict their future husbands. St. Andrew’s Day is rarely a religious occasion nowadays.
It is assumed that St. Andrew died on November 30, 60AD. The patron’s remains were reportedly transported a couple centuries later to the town of St. Andrews. Until the 16th century, it had been a prominent place for pilgrimages. According to the legend, St. Andrew became the protector of Scotland at the wish of the Pictish King Oengus II, for whom the patron granted a victory with the English warriors near Edinburgh in the 9th century.
St. Andrew Day celebrations in the UK are clearly most associated with Scotland, which is why since 2002 it is the Saltire, and not the Union Jack, that hands from the flagpoles around the region. The bill to establish November 30 as a Scottish national holiday was introduced in 2003, but rejected in 2005 on the grounds that there were too many days free from work in Scotland already. Only in 2006 the St. Andrew's Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Act was passed, and in 2007 it was first observed. Earlier that year, on January 15, Queen Elizabeth II granted it a Royal Assent.
The heart of St. Andrew’s Day celebrations is Edinburgh, where a week-long festival is organized. Scottish music and dance is interspersed with traditional cuisine, such as cullen skink, haggis, haddock, neeps and tatties. There are also big shindigs in Glasgow and Dumfries, with parades and ceilidh dancing. Moreover, the aforementioned divinations occur in many Scottish cities at night; the peeled apple skin thrown over the shoulders determined the first letter of a future husband’s name, and candle wax poured into the water forms a figure symbolizing his profession. Since 2009, the whole of Great Britain can make a yearly observance of the Scottish Google Doodle, presenting the Saltire in various locations in the country, and occasionally the Loch Ness Monster peering from a lake marked by saltire. In St Mary Cathedral in Edinburgh, the relicts of St. Andrew are still regularly visited, and the church organizes special masses on November 30.
Although St. Andrew’s Day is a bank holiday in Scotland, banks and public offices are not required to close; the holiday was established under the condition that no economic loss will be produced. The only institutions that have the day off are most of Scottish schools and some shops. Still, the holiday is widely celebrated in the region, maintaining historical traditions and creating new ones. St. Andrew’s Day is a mixture of religious, magical, and secular customs, which are characteristic for the unique and proud Scotland.