St Andrew was one of the Twelve Apostles ( disciples of Jesus) and brother of Simon Peter ( Saint Peter). He was a fisherman by trade, who lived in Galilee ( in present-day Israel).
St Andrew became the patron saint of Scotland in the middle of the 10th century. According to legend, Oengus II led an army into battle against the Angles. It is said that while he prayed on the eve of the battle he promised he would appoint Saint Andrew the patron saint of Scotland if they were to win. On the morning of the battle Oengus II saw a white cross formed by clouds in the sky. They took this as a sign of divine intervention and the army stood beneath it. Despite having fewer men, they emerged victorious and Oengus honoured the pledge and made Andrew the patron saint of Scotland. It could also be that the design of the Scottish flag, called the Saltire, comes from this legend – the white cross of clouds on a background of blue sky.
Despite the fact that St Andrew has stood as Scotland’s patron saint for so many years, it wasn’t until the 18th century that the popular celebration of his day became commonplace. What might surprise you even more is that the tradition of celebrating on November 30th was not even technically started in Scotland, but by a group of wealthy Scottish immigrants in the USA who were keen to reconnect with their Scottish roots.
More recently, St Andrew’s Day has become more and more special to Scots and ranks as one of three major dates during the winter period. Starting off Scotland’s Winter Festival each year on November 30, people across the country gather together to celebrate St Andrew and share good times. The day is usually marked with a celebration of Scottish culture, including traditional dancing, music, food and drink with parties going on long into the cold winter night.
Schools across Scotland hold special St. Andrew’s Day events and activities including art shows, Scottish country dancing, lunchtime ceilidhs, dance festivals, storytelling, reciting and writing poems, cooking traditional Scottish meals, and bagpipe- playing.
Written by: Anna Pędziwiatr