St. Andrew’s Day
Heritage, Scottish Holidays
St. Andrew’s Day is the feast day of Saint Andrew. It is celebrated on the 30th of November.
Who is St. Andrew & What is St. Andrew’s Day?
Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, and St. Andrew’s Day (Scots: Saunt Andra’s Day, Scottish Gaelic: Là Naomh Aindrea) is Scotland’s official national day. In 2006, the Scottish Parliament designated St Andrew’s Day as an official bank holiday. It is also a national holiday in Romania.
Although most commonly associated with Scotland, at least in the English-speaking world, Saint Andrew is also the patron saint of Greece, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Cyprus, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and Saint Andrew, Barbados.
In Germany, the feast day is celebrated as Andreasnacht (“St Andrew’s Night”), in Austria with the custom of Andreasgebet (“St Andrew’s Prayer”), and in Poland as Andrzejki (“Little Andrews”, diminutive), in Russia as Андреева ночь (“Andrew night”).
Scotland’s Flag – The Saltire – The Cross of St. Andrew
The Saltire is the national flag of Scotland and, with a white diagonal cross on a blue background, it represents the crucifixion of the apostle St Andrew, Scotland’s patron saint.
Believed to be the oldest flag in Europe, the origin of the flag comes from an old legend. Tradition has it that the flag originated in a battle fought near the East Lothian village of Athelstaneford in AD 832.
An army of Picts and Scots under King Angus invaded the Lothians (at that time still Northumbrian territory), and found itself surrounded by a larger force of Saxons led by Athelstan. Fearing the outcome, King Angus led prayers for deliverance and was rewarded by seeing a cloud formation of a white Saltire against the blue sky.
The king vowed that if, with the saint’s help, he gained victory, then Andrew would thereafter be the patron saint of Scotland. The Scots did win, and the Saltire eventually became the flag of Scotland.
In 2003 the Scottish Parliament specified the official colour of the flag using the international color coding system and it was decided that the white St Andrew’s Cross should appear on an azure background known as Pantone 300.
Along with the royal flag, the Lion Rampant, the Saltire can be seen flying with gusto in the crowds of international sporting events, on churches and on national and local government offices.
Customs And Traditions Of St. Andrews Day
People in Scotland and Scottish people who find themselves living abroad celebrate St Andrew’s Day by playing or listening to bagpipe music and dancing to Scottish music.
The day following St Andrew’s Day marks the first day of Advent on 1 December.
A young woman or girl should pray on the night of the 29 November to be married. They would look for a sign about their future husband on the 30 November. One such sign would be to throw a shoe at the door of her parents house. If the toe pointed to the house she would be staying there another year. If it pointed away from the home she would be leaving to be wed within the year and live with her spouse.
Another old custom from Saint Andrew Day is that a young woman should try and peel an apple in one go. This peel would then form the initial name of her intended.
There is no specific food that should be eaten on St Andrews Day, though some enjoy cock-a-leekie soup as a started and a main course of haggis whilst others eat fish because Saint Andrew was a fisherman.
A modern day custom on Saint Andrews day is free admission to Scottish Castles that are maintained by Historic Scotland. These include free entry to Edinburgh Castle, St Andrews Castle and St Andrews Cathedral today to celebrate St Andrews Day.
Michael MacFarlane, FSAScot
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