Monday 30th November is Saint Andrew's Day, a Scottish national holiday celebrating the patron Saint the welcoming of the winter season with festivals packed with everything from drinking, dancing to feasting. Even though the patron Saint likely had never set foot in Scotland they have been honouring him and recognising St. Andrew as their official patron Saint since 1320; When Scotland was declared an independent nation.

The tradition of celebrating Saint Andrew's Day annually actually starting in the United States. A collection of wealthy Scottish immigrants created the St. Andrew's Society of Charleston where they would promote the day. In addition to that, the society established the group on the premise to "do generous and charitable actions... and [to] promote some public good" which they lived up to as they was known for protecting people such as widows and orphans in the Charleston area. Since then the Scottish adopted the similar tradition accompanied with grand celebration (it has even considered an official bank holiday).

Some regions of Scotland have their own festivals and ways of celebrating St. Andrews Day, for example in the East Lothian area they have something known as the "Saltire Festival" - which is all about Scottish heritage taking place from 24th November to 6th December. Other festivals include the torchlight procession and the Oban Winter Festival. The later celebrating St. Andrews Day with a whiskey festival, haggis tastings and traditional Gaelic and Scottish tunes.

Who was Saint Andrew?

Saint Andrew also known as Andrew the Apostle along with his brother St. Peter were a part of the twelve apostles of Jesus. When he was born in to the village of Bethsaida Andrew stood out as his name was that of a Greek one (meaning manly/brave). As it was not a traditional Hebrew name but one from another culture is was said to show that his family was open to other cultures.  Both Andrew and his brother (St.) Peter were fishermen by trade, one of the many reasons they were called to be disciples; as Jesus told them they would become the "fishers of men". 


He was martyred for his beliefs and teachings of Christianity as Jesus was. Andrew however, refused to be crucified in the same manner of Jesus on a cross (T shaped) as he deemed himself unworthy, so instead he was crucified on an X-shaped cross on 30th November 60AD. This is how the cross of the Saltire became the symbol of St. Andrew. An additional fact St. Peter also refused to be crucified in the same manner as Jesus so his symbol is an upside down cross.

How did St. Andrew become the patron Saint of Scotland?

As mentioned earlier in the article, it was unlikely that St. Andrew had ever been to Scotland, which begs the question, how did he get associated with the country? Well sometime after Saint Andrew's death, a collection of his bones - relics put on a ship to go west as instructed by an Angel. It was said that wherever the shipwrecks a church would be built. Or course, this ship arrived at the shores of Kilrymont - a small fishing village that was eventually renamed to St. Andrew. Thus becoming an important site of pilgrimage for Christians.

^ Photo of Saint Andrew's Cathedral 

In 1318, St. Andrews Cathedral was built to house the holy relics. However due to the Scottish Reformation in 1560 both the holy relics and the cathedral itself were destroyed. Sometime later in 1870 to make up for this loss the Archbishop of Amalfi generously donated a piece of Saint Andrew's shoulder blade, in order to let a piece of the Saint forever remain in Scotland.

Saint Andrew is also the patron of both Russia and Greece but has the most special significance in Scotland. When the English tried to claim that Scotland and by extension the relics fell under the Archbishop of York's jurisdiction; Pope John XXII declared that the Scots had long enjoyed the protection of the Saint and was later referred to as Scotland's patron or protector.

In Rome at St. Peters in 1969, Pope Paul VI gifted another relic (part of the Saint's skull) to the Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh with the words "Peter greets his brother Andrew".

As you can see from above Saint Andrew has inspired the Scottish through his amazing history, not just in life but in death also. Hope you have learned something interesting. Once again, due to the pandemic, many St. Andrew's Day events have been cancelled. Nevertheless, you can still have small feasts in celebration within your own households.

Scottish Flag, the Saltire (the cross) represents St. Andrew

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