St Andrew, patron saint of Scotland, is celebrated on 30 November each year. There is a national bank holiday in Scotland to mark the occasion, known as St Andrew’s Day.
Christians believe Andrew was one of the disciples of Jesus Christ. He was martyred for his beliefs in Greece around 60AD. But he believed he was not worthy of the same style of cross as Jesus and is said to have died on a X-shaped cross. This became his symbol.
How did St Andrew come to be associated with Scotland?
The country’s association with St Andrew comes from a legend that Óengus II, king of Picts and Scots from 820-834, led an army against the Angles, a Germanic people that invaded Britain. The Scots were heavily outnumbered, and Óengus prayed the night before battle, vowing to name St. Andrew the patron saint of Scotland if they won.
On the day of the battle white clouds formed an X in the sky, the saltire cross of St Andrew. Inspired by the apparent divine intervention, the Scottish troops came out victorious despite overwhelming odds.
True to his word, Óengus named St. Andrew the patron saint of Scotland. And the saltire cross has flown as Scotland’s flag ever since.
In modern times, the day heralds the start of the winter festivals including Hogmanay and Burns Night. The tradition is to celebrate with Scottish foods such as cullen skink (a smoked fish soup) or haggis (sheep lung, oatmeal, onion and other flavourings in a sausage style casing). This is traditionally served with tatties and neeps (mashed potatoes and turnips). And of course you have to wash it all down with some malt whiskey. Afterwards there can be a Ceilidh, from the Gaelic meaning ‘to Party’. This usually involves fantastic, intricate Scottish dancing and twirling around at great speed! This is a celebration not to be missed!