St Andrew’s Day (Celebrate this 30th November)
Written by: Caitlin
Published: 23rd October 2020, last updated: 18th December 2020
St Andrew’s Day is Scotland’s official national day, and is celebrated on the 30th November every year.
In 2006 the St. Andrew’s Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Act 2007, was passed by the Scottish parliament, meaning that St Andrew’s Day became designated an official bank holiday in Scotland. If the 30th November falls on a weekend, then the next Monday is a bank holiday instead.
Although it is a bank holiday, banks are not required to close and employers are not required to give their employees the day off as a holiday, although many do. The University of St Andrews traditionally gives the day for all the students as a free holiday, but this is just a nice tradition rather than a hard and fast rule.
Who was Saint Andrew?
Many countries have their own patron Saint, who has been chosen to be special protectors or guardians over things. St Andrew was chosen to the be the patron saint of Scotland officially in 1320, when Scotland’s independence was declared with the signing of The Declaration of Arbroath.
To be honest, not a whole lot is known about St Andrew, but it is believed that he was born between 5AD and 10AD in a place that has gone on to become part of Israel. He was also known as Andrew the Apostle, because Christians believe that he was one of the Twelve Apostles or Twelve Disciples of Jesus. St Andrew was the brother of St Peter, and they were both fishermen by trade, and living in Galilee.
The Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark record that Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, observed Simon and Andrew fishing, and called them to discipleship and to be ‘fishers of men’. Subsequently throughout the gospels Andrew was named as being present at a number of significant events, including telling Jesus about the boy with the loaves and fishes, being a part of the Last Supper and visiting Jesus on the Mount of Olives.
Andrew preached regularly as he attempted to convert more people to Christianity. This angered the Romans who ultimately sentenced him to death.
Whilst obviously nobody alive today can be sure what St. Andrew looked like, he is often depicted as an older bearded man, and usually with his iconic x-shaped cross.
When St Andrew died it was said to be by crucification, but on an x-shaped cross, at his own request, because he deemed himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross as Jesus had been. This cross is now commonly known as a ‘Saint Andrew’s Cross’, and this why the Scottish flag has the X-shaped cross on it, as it is St Andrew’s symbol.
It is not known whether St Andrew would have even set foot in Scotland in his whole life, but it does appear that he traveled great distances in order to preach, and it may be this which links him with Scotland. And he is also the patron saint of Romania, Greece, Russia, Ukraine and Poland.
What did Saint Andrew do for Scotland?
There are two legends which build on St Andrew’s extensive travels and suggest his link with Scotland. One of these claims that he actually came to Scotland and built a church in Fife. This town is now called St Andrews, and the church became a centre for evangelism, and pilgrims came from all over Britain to pray there.
The second story still features the town of St Andrew, but instead suggests that it was after the death of Andrew, sometime in the 4th century, that several of his relics where brought to Fife. It is believed that relics of St Andrew were brought from Rome to England by Catholic missionaries in the 7th Century, and then from England some of them brought to Kilrymont by a certain Bishop Acca in the 8th Century.
Whichever of these legends is closer to the truth we are unlikely to ever know.
Why is St Andrew the patron saint of Scotland?
Supposedly the reason St Andrew was chosen as the patron saint of Scotland can be traced back to King Angus in the 9th century. King Angus of Scotland was preparing for a battle against the English, when St Andrew appeared to him in a dream promising him victory and on the day of the battle, an X symbol appeared in the sky, which was the symbol of St Andrew. He vowed that if they won, St Andrew would be made the patron saint of Scotland – and that is exactly what happened.
There is some Scottish mythology which suggest that the origins go back further than this. This story says that Scottish people are descended from an ancient population called the Scythians, who lived on the Black Sea (this is now Romania and Bulgaria), who St Andrew converted to Christianity.
Superstition surrounding St Andrew persists to this day and the Saltire (the cross on the Scottish flag, the symbol of St Andrew) is said to prevent witches flying down chimneys when marked next to a fireplace.
The Flag of Scotland, often called The Saltire or Saint Andrew’s Cross, is a blue field with a white saltire.
St Andrew was known for generous and cooperative spirit, and for being a humble man who had a philosophy of being compassionate and sharing with others. St Andrew’s values of helping others is something that the Scottish community continue by helping others who are less fortunate and building the community spirit within wider society. The friendliness of Scots is widely known outside of the community to this day!
“In the later middle ages, especially during the 14th Century Wars of Independence against the English, St Andrew became explicitly associated with Scottish aspirations for nationhood, with the Saltire as the symbol of his patronage”
Celebrating St Andrews’s Day
It wasn’t actually until the 18th century that the popular celebration of St Andrews Day became commonplace, and it wasn’t even in Scotland that the celebration began on the 30th November, it was in face group of ex-pats in the USA who were keen to reconnect with their Scottish roots.
Many people believe that the 30th November 60AD was the day that Saint Andrew was crucified in Greece.
But regardless of when it started, it is fair to say that celebrating is one thing that the Scot’s do spectacularly well, and one of the days of the year that you will find us at our loudest and proudest os on St Andrew’s Day. Scots and Scots-at-heart celebrate the patron saint of Scotland and our national day with a holiday and fantastic events, which showcase the very best of Scottish culture.
What do you do on St Andrew’s Day?
St Andrew’s day is a bank holiday with many organisations giving their staff the day off work. Events happen right across the country – from free entry to historic attractions to ceilidhs, food markets and entertainment including poetry, music, art and performance. Some towns, such as St. Andrews, even throw weeklong celebrations. St. Andrew’s Day also marks the beginning of the winter festival season, which encompasses the period over Christmas, Hogmanay and Burns Night too.
Where can I celebrate St Andrew’s Day?
The popular ‘Beating the Retreat’ parade heading through the town of St Andrews on St Andrew’s Day
This one might seem obvious, but where better to celebrate St Andrew’s Day than in the very town that bears his name! The 6-day extravaganza of St Andrews events begins with the ‘Beating the Retreat’, parade which snakes through town led by an open-air pipe band. Afterwards, how about dancing the day away at Scotland’s largest open-air ceilidh, or singing your heart out at the street party, featuring top Scottish artists.
There is also the ‘Savour St Andrews’ food and drink festival, which is renown across the country, which you can find out more about HERE.
If you choose to spend your St Andrew’s Day in the capital of Scotland, you’ll find storytelling events and traditional music mingled in with food and drink markets offering street food, sweet treats and seasonal crafts. The Saltire Festival based just outside the city and celebrates not only St Andrew’s Day but celebrates Scotland’s heritage, culture, delicious food and traditions all week long and is well worth a visit.
The Oban Winter Festival on St Andrew’s Day
Oban in the west coast of Scotland is known for it’s 10 day long winter festival, which includes St Andrew’s Day celebrations, with a food and craft market, Haggis Festival, Whisky Festival, ceilidh, and St Andrew’s Day ‘Tartan Dash’. This is an event not to be missed as the uniquely charming town of Oban becomes awash with street parades, international and local performing artists, fire art, pipers, and lantern parades.
St Andrew’s Day in the bright and bustling city of Glasgow is well worth experiencing. It will see a vivid programme of events, including one-off film screenings, as well as special events at The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, Kelvingrove Park and the Riverside Museum. Not only that but you will be able to sample delicious food and drink from some of the region’s finest producers, and immerse yourself in all things Scottish!
What do you eat on St Andrew’s Day?
In Scotland and across Europe, people celebrate St Andrew’s Day by feasting! St. Andrew’s Day is all about celebrating everything that is quintessentially Scottish, so it is really no wonder that food is a big part of that celebration. Traditional dishes served might include:
Cullen skink, may also known as smoked haddock chowder in other parts of Britain, but by it’s traditional name it is one of Scotland’s most famous dishes. It is a hearty soup that is traditionally made with smoked haddock. Often mashed potato is used to add thickness and creaminess, but in some versions the potatoes are added in chunks.
The name of this soup comes from Cullen, a small town in Moray in the northeast of Scotland. The word skink is the Scottish term for a knuckle, shin, or hough of beef, so most soups made of these parts were called skink. When people in northern Scotland were unable to find scraps of beef due to economic strains but had plenty of fish to cook with, and smoked haddock was found everywhere, meat stews transformed into fish-based soups, but the name skink stuck.
Haggis was born out of necessity in harder times, when using as much as possible of a slain animal was essential. The trusty national dish is comprised of sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs), filled with a mixture of oats and suet and spices. Mixed with stock and salt it creates a surprisingly delectable dish, which is grossly underestimated outside of the country. I think the reason haggis is a popular St Andrew’s Day dish is that it is fundamentally representative of Scotland.
Well known for being the perfect accompaniment to haggis, neeps (Scottish for turnips) and tatties (Scottish for potato) complete the traditional Hogmanay meal. Mashed up with a generous amount of butter until smooth and creamy, this is a nostalgic, well loved dish that features not only on St Andrew’s Day, but year round in many Scottish households.
Since St Andrew’s Day is considered Scotland’s national holiday, Scots go all out with weeklong festivals, parties, and more. You can find a glass of whiskey or beer in just about anybody’s hand during the celebrations!
Scottish whisky – also known as ‘Scotch’ – is an important part of Scottish identity. It’s believed whisky-making began in Scotland as winemaking methods spread from monasteries in Europe; with no access to grapes, monks used grain mash instead to produce an early form of the popular spirit.
There are now 109 distilleries is Scotland, so plenty of varieties of Scotch available to tickle your tastebuds this St Andrew’s Day.
St Andrew’s Day Music
What better way to celebrate St Andrews Day than with a selection of Scots language songs and poems. Steve Byrne has put together a great playlist for St Andrew’s Day – sing along, listen in and enjoy Scotland’s special day.
Listen to the playlist here
Many places will indulge in a traditional Scottish Ceilidh on St Andrew’s Day. A Ceilidh is a traditional Scottish country dance event, named after the Gaelic word meaning “to party” or “to visit,” and if you have ever attended one I’m sure you can vouch for exactly how much fun one can be! These events, often held on St. Andrews Day, involve Scottish folk music mixed with modern pop music, dancing, and storytelling. As an added touch of flair, people often wear the traditional iconic kilt.
The Saltire on St Andrew’s Day
St Andrew’s Day is an official flag day in Scotland. What this means according to the Scottish Government’s flag-flying regulations is that the Flag of Scotland, also known as the Saltire or the Saint Andrew’s Cross, shall fly on all its buildings with a flagpole, as a mark of respect and also a sign of celebration.
St Andrew’s Day around the World
Saint Andrew is the patron saint of not only Scotland, but also Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, San Andres Island (Colombia), Saint Andrew (Barbados) and Tenerife.
St Andrew’s Day is also a national holiday in Romania and has been since 2015. St Andrew’s Day is celebrated as the national day of Independence in Barbados. As the patron saint, Saint Andrew is celebrated in a number of Barbadian symbols including the cross formation of the Barbadian Coat of Arms,
The relics of Andrew are supposed to be scattered within the many countries who claim him as their patron saint. They are kept at the Basilica of St Andrew in Greece, in Amalfi Cathedal (the Duomo di Sant’Andrea) in Italy, St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh and the Church of St Andrew and St Albert in Poland.
As well as other countries, he’s the patron saint of singers, spinsters, maidens, fishmongers, fishermen, women wanting to be mothers, gout and sore throats. St Andrew is also the patron saint of the Order of the Thistle, one of the highest ranks of chivalry in the world, second only to the Order of the Garter.
St Andrew’s Day Eve
There is a particular superstitious belief surrounding the night before St Andrew’s Day in parts of the Ukraine, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Poland, Russia and Romania. They believe that St Andrew’s Eve is a night especially suitable for magic, in particular the kind of magic that reveals a young woman’s future husband or that binds a future husband to her. The day was also believed to be the start of the most popular time for vampire activity, lasting until St George’s Eve on the 22nd April.
5 of the oddest traditions to carry out on the eve of St Andrew’s Day…
Hiding grains to get a husband
In Romania it is tradition for young women to place 41 grains underneath their pillow, and if they dream their grains are stolen, then it’s believed they will find a husband within the year.
Also in some other parts of the country the young women light a candle from the Easter and bring it, at midnight, to a fountain. They ask Saint Andrew to let them glimpse their future husband.
How to guess your future husband’s occupation
In Poland, the holiday Andrzejki is celebrated on the night of the 29th through 30 November. Traditionally, the holiday was only observed by young single girls, though today both young men and women join the party to see their futures.
Here husbandless women believe they are able to predict their future husband’s occupation by pouring hot wax through a keyhole into water — the wax forming to resemble the shape of their occupation.
St Andrew’s Eve in Poland where women predict their future husband’s occupation by pouring hot wax through a keyhole into water.
The way to a man’s heart is through food
In Slovakia young women write down the names of potential husbands on pieces of paper, kneading them into dough and baking; the first name to rise to the top of the bread will be their husband.
A curious way to get a girl’s attention
In Moldova on the eve of St Andrew’s Day, young men steal and hide gates or doors from the homes of the young women they wish to marry. In the morning the fathers’ are tasked with finding their gates, thus knowing their daughter has a suitor.
One foot out of the door
On St Andrew’s Day Eve in Austria, young women throw a shoe over their shoulder; if it lands pointing towards the door they will be married within the year.
Cape Santo André in Portugal
Cape Santo André is the Portuguese for Saint Andrew, and refers to a cape located in the Northern coast of Portugal, with spectacular views over the coast. Near the cape, there’s the Saint Andrew chapel and Rock, to whom Povoan fishermen dedicate a night pilgrimage throw the beach on St Andrew’s Day Eve.
According to local legends, Saint Andrew is the boatman of souls, and fishes cadavers from shipwrecks here. Several victims were found near the cape and buried below the chapel. The people also believed the chapel’s saint helped in fisheries and provided marriages. It is of ancient cult in Póvoa de Varzim, there are hints of Stone Age paintings and Roman activity in the site.
Cape Santo André in Portugal
St Andrew’s Day Gifts
Should you wish to gift that special someone this St Andrew’s Day, then really it should be something truly representative of Scotland at it’s finest. Some of our favourite ideas would have to include:
- Whiskey – no further explanation needed!
- Tablet or shortbread – for the sweet toothed amongst you.
- Anything tartan- may that be in your particular clan tartan or just a novelty gift, of which there are many out there!
- A LORD OR LADYSHIP OF GLENCOE- FIND OUT MORE HERE
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