Happy St Andrew's Day; Barbados, Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, oh aye and us!
St Andrew’s Day is upon us and we have really only had one proper frost. A walk along the beach, did not result in the normal blue nose and white face from the cold. Perfect colours to reflect our national day but I would rather see them in the Saltire than on my face.
As a nation we don’t actually do much to celebrate the 30th of November. Unlike our Celtic cousins who relish in St Patrick’s Day, we seem quite happy to watch them play and enjoy their national day. The Welsh aren’t so lucky as to have a day off but at least they still mark it in some way. Who hasn’t seen them wear their daffodils and leeks with pride? At least they make an effort. Although I have to say if the leek was our national plant it would go straight in the pot for soup.
Of course further afield there is Thanksgiving. We almost seem more aware of that than our own day. We do partake of it in some way. Of course that tends to be in the purchase of the odd bargain or two. It also seems to ignite the torch paper to the race towards the Festive Season.
We are a strange breed us Scots. So proud of who we are, so happy to find an excuse to share and partake in others peoples special days. Yet so canny when we have a genuine reason to celebrate our very own day. More is done now that ever. When I was younger you would have definitely been hard pushed to find anyone who was even aware of when St Andrew’s day was. Unless of course you were a church goer.
Maybe we could have a joint celebrate with all the other countries that commemorate today too. Barbados not only honour St Andrew but also rejoice as it is their Independence Day. In the meantime Poland, Greece and Russia all have have parties, balls and festive foods. Even Cyprus has a day off. Sadly we do not.
Older traditions are marked such as collecting tree branches in particular from pear, cherry and apples trees. These are bundled up sometime with rosebushes and given to family members in Romanian. The first stems to bloom by New Year will have the best luck that year. That sounds a lovely tradition to keep. Even if you aren’t superstitious seeing trees bud up always lightens the heart; you know that spring is just around the corner and will flourish into life soon. Other superstations mention the ability to better tell the future at this time of year or who you may marry. In some counties it is linked more with our Halloween in that it is believed the souls of the dead can come back for a visit. As to food it appear that garlic is a must.
Is is easy to see where some of the traditions have come from in other places well before any Saint put in a presence. As with many other cultures the winning religion takes over these traditions and calls them their own. Trees, garlic, visiting souls, telling the future, drink, songs, dance and music all combine to make a distinct celebration. Just think on what an amazing party that could be had if we all joined up and mixed all these traditions together and just went for it.
I mean nowadays we are more likely to have a curry or garlic flavoured food than haggis anyway. Though I don’t think we will every leave our soups behind. Where would be without our broth or Cullen Skink.
The question is really would we survive another festival day before the beginning of December and winter proper? I would much prefer to celebrate our rather mixed together cultures and traditions from across Europe than take on the American USA Thanksgiving. It’s not that I have anything against their day. But in the end it is their day not ours. We can celebrate along with other countries who honour the same day as us anyway.
So what do you think? Should we have a day off for St Andrews, adopt a few more little bits of traditions from other who also celebrate this day? Like a mix and match or a buffet if you like of events and foods. Take it for what it is, a day celebrated in various ways long before the religious element came along and just accept it as our day too and party?