St Andrew’s Day

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 28th November 2019.

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Photo of Bill Bowman Bill Bowman Conservative

I thank Tom Arthur for bringing the debate to the Parliament—with Kyle’s help.

St Andrew’s day is the feast day of St Andrew. It is Scotland’s official national day and is celebrated on 30 November. In 2006, the Parliament passed what became the St Andrew’s Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Act 2007, which designated the day as an official bank holiday.

I believe that relics of St Andrew were on display in the Parliament a year ago, in an event sponsored by Elaine Smith MSP.

Although St Andrew was generally revered in Scotland from around 1000 AD, he did not become the official patron saint until the signing of the declaration of Arbroath in 1320, and popular celebration of his day did not become commonplace until the 18th century.

Since then, St Andrew has become involved in so much of Scotland’s culture. For example, the flag of Scotland, the St Andrew’s cross, was chosen in honour of him; today I am wearing a tie with the saltire on it.

Despite all the history surrounding St Andrew, St Andrew’s day is not as well known as festivals such as St Patrick’s day in Ireland—as we have already heard—even though it is believed that the celebration of St Andrew as a national festival stretches back to some point in the 11th century, during the reign of Malcolm III. However, despite it not being as famous as other festivals, it is a national holiday not only in Scotland, as St Andrew is also the patron saint of Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Tenerife and Barbados—and maybe of other places, too.

Having lived and worked in Romania for 10 years, I will touch on how St Andrew’s day is celebrated not only here at home but worldwide, with a particular focus on some celebrations and customs in Romania.

The story of St Andrew in Romania tells us that Romania was Christianised by St Andrew in the first century AD, as is accepted by both the Romanian Orthodox church and the Romanian state, with St Andrew being named the patron saint of Romania.

There are various activities that people engage in as a way of celebrating old Romanian beliefs associated with the feast of St Andrew. They include bringing out garlic to ward off ghosts, and eating salty bread in the hope of dreaming of the person they will marry—there is a tip.

Interestingly, given that some people wish to see wolves reintroduced into Scotland, in Romania St Andrew is invoked to ward off wolves on St Andrew’s day. On that day, wolves are thought to be able to eat any animal they want to eat and to speak to humans; the belief is that a human hearing a wolf speak to him will die, so people invoke St Andrew to protect themselves. Members have been warned.

St Andrew’s fair Saturday is Scotland’s contribution to the global celebration of fair Saturday, which is a global mobilisation that aims to create a positive social impact following the great expression of consumerism that is black Friday. Artists and cultural organisations from across Scotland and around the world will get together in a global festival that has just one requirement: to support a social cause of their choice that is close to their heart and to contribute to the wider celebration of St Andrew’s day through their show. Events are being held across my North East Scotland region, including in, among other places, Aberdeen and Dundee, which include ceilidhs and cathedral services, as well as a concert in Dundee at which the decks of HMS Unicorn will be filled with lively traditional tunes from Shetland, mainland Scotland and Ireland.

St Andrew’s day is a very important day in Scotland and globally. Although many people might not be aware of St Andrew’s wider connections outwith Scotland, it is clear that he was and continues to be an important figure, especially at this time of year. It is encouraging to see that other celebrations and events are emerging as a result of the St Andrew’s day holiday, and it is particularly encouraging for me, as a member for the North East Scotland region, to see places such as Dundee and Aberdeen getting involved.