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Articles about Edinburgh and Scotland by David Wheater, founder of Tours of Edinburgh.

Celebrating St Andrew's Day in Scotland

Tours of Edinburgh Edinburgh Castle lit up with Saltire flag during Edinburgh Military Tattoo August 2016.jpg

Celebrating St Andrew's Day in Scotland
by David Wheater of Tours of Edinburgh

St Andrew's Day is celebrated on the 30th November, which is a day that Scots enjoy celebrating their unique culture and cuisine all around the world.

At Tours of Edinburgh we thought we'd find out a little more about Saint Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland and the traditions surrounding our national day. So here goes:

1. The beginning of Advent is set at the Sunday closest to St Andrew's Day.

2. The flying of the Saltire flag on St Andrew's Day is quite a recent development. Prior to 2002, it was only the Union Jack that could be flown on St Andrew's Day.

3. St Andrew's Day is a designated bank holiday in Scotland, although banks and employers are not obliged to close or give employees the day off.

4. Just before midnight, the day before St Andrew's Day, it is traditional for girls in Scotland to pray to St Andrew for a husband. They would throw their shoe at a door and if it pointed in the direction of the exit then she could expect to leave her parents house and marry within a year. Alternatively, she could peel an apple without breaking the peel, throw it over her shoulder and the peel would suggest the first letter of her future husband's name! They would also drop molten lead or candle wax into a bucket of water and the shape that it formed would tell them the profession of their future husband.

5. Saint Andrew is the patron saint of fishermen, singers, unmarried women and expectant mothers.

6. Surprisingly, not much is known about Saint Andrew himself. He was born in Bethsaida, Galilee around the 1st Century BC and was thought to be a fisherman by trade living in Galilee (now part of Israel) with his elder brother, Simon Peter (Saint Peter). He was a disciple of John the Baptist and followed Jesus on John's recommendation. He and his brother were apostles of Jesus who all famously migrated to different parts of the world to spread the teachings of Jesus.

7. Saint Andrew is also the patron saint of Russia, Patras in Greece, Amalfi in Italy, Luqa in Malta Romania, Ukraine and Esgueira in Portugal.

8. Saint Andrew is believed to have spread the beliefs of the Christian religion through Asia Minor and Greece, along the Black Sea as far as Volga and Kiev.

9. He is thought to have been crucified by the Romans in around 60 or 70 AD in Patras, southern Greece on a diagonally transversed cross, the diagonal "X" shape of which is now represented by the white cross of the Scottish flag (Saltire). The blue of the flag is thought to represent the sky.

10. His remains were entombed and later kept by Roman Emperor Constantine in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) in around the 4th century until, according to legend, a Greek Monk called St Rule had a warning, from an angel in a dream, that Saint Andrew's remains should be moved for safe keeping to the "ends of the earth". Scotland was literally at the extremities of the known world at that time, so he took the remains there and was shipwrecked off the east coast of Scotland in the process!

11. St Rule came ashore at a Pictish settlement which later became named "St Andrews". Hence the association of Saint Andrew with the Scottish town of St Andrews. (A less exciting theory as to how Saint Andrew's remains came to Scotland, is that the Bishop of Hexham, an avid collector of relics, simply brought the remains to St. Andrews in 733!).

12. The relics were placed in a specially constructed chapel which became the Cathedral of St Andrews in 1160 and it became a place of pilgrimage in medieval times. The cathedral is now a ruin, but "St Rule's Tower" still remains.

13. It is thought that the relics were destroyed during the Scottish Reformation when such relics were removed from churches in support of the Protestant movement. The site where the relics were kept is now marked by a plaque in amongst the ruins of the Cathedral in St Andrews.

14. One of the earliest times Saint Andrew was recognised as the patron saint of Scotland was at the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320 when Scotland's independence from England was proclaimed.

15. The largest part of Saint Andrew's remains are kept in Amalfi, Italy, but further remains, given to the first Scottish Cardinal since the Reformation in 1969, can be seen in St Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh.

16. The "Order of Saint Andrew" (or the "Most Ancient Order of the Thistle") is an exclusive order of Knighthood restricted to just the King or Queen and sixteen others. It was established by James VII of Scotland in 1687.

17. On a contemporary note the town of St Andrews is where Prince William and Kate Middleton met and shared a flat together while studying at St Andrews University! (A tenuous link maybe! but interesting that our future King and Queen should meet in such a historic Scottish town).

One thing's for sure, there's very little written in stone about Saint Andrew, but hopefully the above will be of interest. Enjoy your St Andrew's Day wherever you may be in the world.

If you'd like to join me on a special walking Tour of Edinburgh, please Email or telephone me on 07400 705 357.

David WheaterScottishComment