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St Andrew's Day

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St Andrew's Day- November 30th

History | Celebrations | Images and Symbols


What do Russia and Scotland have in common? They both share St Andrew as their patron saint! (Russia seems to have a few).

St Andrew is also the patron saint of singers, spinsters, maidens, old maids, fishmongers and women seeking to become mothers.


St Andrew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples and he lived and worked as a fisherman in Galilee. He was the brother of Peter, another of Christ's disciples.

After Christ's crucifixion, one version of the legend is that Andrew went to Greece to preach Christianity, where he was crucified for his beliefs at a place called Patras, on a cross in the form of an X. However, the X-shaped cross played little part in early legends of St. Andrew and indeed in early versions of the tale, Andrew was nailed to an olive tree, not a cross.

How he ended up being the patron saint is unclear, there are several differing stories:-

300 years after his death the Emperor Constantine decided to remove the Saint's bones to Constantinople, but according to legend the monk St. Regulus was warned in a dream by an angel, who told him to remove as many bones as he could to the "ends of the earth" to keep them safe.

As far as the Greeks and Romans were concerned, Scotland was as near to the world's end as you could get, so some of his remains were taken to Scotland. St. Regulus brought the relics ashore at what is now St Andrews (some versions say he was shipwrecked there) and a chapel was built to house the bones, followed in 1160 by a cathedral. St Andrews was the religious capital of Scotland and an important place of pilgrimage.
A more plausible version of how the Saint's bones found their way to Scotland is that Acca, Bishop of Hexham, who was a renowned collector of religious relics, actually bought the bones quite legitimately and took them there in 733 AD.

Unfortunately the bones have now disappeared, probably destroyed during the Reformation when anything connected with "Catholic idolatry" was removed without trace. The site where the relics had been is now marked by a plaque in the ruins of the Cathedral in St Andrews.

Not all of St. Andrew's bones were originally sent to Scotland, the rest were stolen from Constantinople by the Crusaders in around 1204 and taken to Amalfi in Italy, from where some fragments were sent in 1879 to Scotland, and in 1969 Pope Paul VI gave some further relics to the Catholic church in Scotland during a visit there and these are now displayed in a reliquary in St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh, if you're into that kind of thing.


Now if you know anything about the Scots you would think the celebrations of their patron saint would be on the same scale as those of Ireland's - St Patrick, but somehow they aren't. St. Andrew's Day used to be a very popular feast day in Scotland. It was a common custom for farm workers and labourers to go "St. Andra'ing". They would catch rabbits and hares and later on in the day would feast and drink. But a recent survey showed many Scots didn't know when St Andrew's day was.

To address this terrible sacrilege there have been debates on and off for some time about making St. Andrew's Day a public holiday in Scotland, that way it would be easier to remember, but so far no success. However the day is celebrated by those Scots at home and abroad who know when it is wearing traditional costume - kilts, drinking traditional Scottish drink - Scotch whisky, eating traditional Scottish food - neeps and tatties, listening to traditional Scottish music - the bagpipes and enjoying traditional Scottish dancing - celidhs.

Many Scots will also wear a thistle on this day. The thistle is widely regarded as the emblem of Scotland. There are several varieties of thistle, most of them common weeds throughout the British Isles and nearly all characterised by extreme prickliness. The legend of how the thistle came to be adopted by the Scots tells of how a group of Scots were sleeping in a field when a group of marauding Vikings crept up to attack. Fortunately one of the Vikings stood on a thistle, whose prickles penetrated through to his foot and made him yell with pain, waking the sleeping Scots who were able to fight off their attackers. So, from that day, or so the story goes, the thistle has been adopted as Scotland's national emblem.

Images and Symbols associated with Scotland

The Scottish flag is a blue background with a white saltire. A saltire is a heraldic symbol in the form of a diagonal cross.

St Andrew Flag
The Scottish flag Kilt Kilt Thistle Thistle
    bagpipe Bagpipes    

Interesting Links

Read about what is happening to the debate to make St Andrew's Day a national holiday here

British Culture