St. Andrew’s Day: A Scottish Celebration

November 29, 2019  - by 

St. Andrew’s Day is a national holiday in Scotland that is celebrated with feasts on November 30. It is also Scotland’s national day, marking the beginning of Scotland as a nation. Variations of the holiday are also celebrated in Romania, Germany, Austria, Poland, and Russia.

Holiday traditions are an important part of global cultures as well as family identities. Learn more about holidays around the world and their cultural impact.

You can use FamilySearch Memories to record stories about your culture’s holidays or the traditions your family has over the holidays. FamilySearch.org allows you to share these stories with your family members and save them for future generations.

a painting depicting St. Andrew and Christ.

Who Was Saint Andrew?

Saint Andrew appears in the New Testament as an Apostle and disciple of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Andrew started as a fisher by trade, along with his brother Peter. Peter and Andrew were fishing in the Sea of Galilee when Jesus called out to them, saying “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Both Peter and John left their boats to follow Christ and become two of his Twelve Apostles. 

In another account, Andrew is listed as a disciple of John the Baptist. Upon meeting Christ, he immediately recognizes him as the Messiah and introduces his brother Peter to Christ, saying “We have found the Messias” (John 1:41).

In some Christian denominations, Andrew is now the patron saint, or heavenly advocate, of Cyprus, Scotland, Greece, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, and more. He is hailed as the “First-Called,” as he was the first Apostle named.

Why Does Scotland Celebrate St. Andrew’s Day?

According to legend, Óengus II, king of Picts and Scots, 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 clouds were thought to represent the X-shaped cross where St. Andrew was crucified. The troops were inspired by the apparent divine intervention, and they came out victorious despite overwhelming odds.

True to his word, as the legend goes, Óengus named St. Andrew the patron saint of Scotland, and St. Andrew’s Day marked Scotland’s victory and new nationhood. Scotland’s flag, a white cross over a blue background, is also likely the result of this legend and has been named St. Andrew’s Cross.

St. Andrew’s Day Celebrations

Scots and others celebrate traditional Scottish culture on St. Andrew’s Day with Scottish food, music, recitations, dancing, and more. The day isn’t as widely celebrated in Scotland as some other holidays, such as St. Patrick’s Day, but it is a grand celebration nonetheless. Some towns, such as St. Andrews, even throw weeklong celebrations.

St. Andrew’s Day also marks the beginning of winter festivals such as Hogmanay and Burns Night.

St. Andrew’s Day Food

traditional st andrews day food.

St. Andrew’s Day is all about celebrating Scottish culture, and food is a big part of that celebration. Traditional dishes served might include cullen skink, haggis, lamb, neeps and tatties, and more. 

Cullen skink is a creamy fish soup made of smoked haddock, potatoes, and onions. Lamb can be served in a variety of forms, such as meatballs or soup. Haggis, a traditional food in Scotland, is a savory pudding steamed in a casing and made from sheep’s lung, onion, oatmeal, and other ingredients. Neeps and tatties are yellow turnips and potatoes that have been boiled and mashed.

St. Andrew’s Day Music

Ceilidh (pronounced “kay-lee”), coming from the Gaelic word meaning “to party” or “to visit,” is a traditional Scottish country dance that’s all about fun. These events, often held on St. Andrews Day, involve Scottish folk music mixed with modern pop music, dancing, and storytelling. As an added touch of flair, people often wear the traditional iconic kilt. Who would miss this lively event?

Have you celebrated St. Andrew’s Day? Let us know in the comments below how you have celebrated this holiday, or record your stories in FamilySearch Memories to share with the rest of your family.

Your Scottish Heritage

a scottish man plays bagpipes

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  1. We have a rich Scottish heritage, but we have never celebrated St. Andrews Day. I think this year is a good year to start! Thanks so much for the info.