Updated: Nov 30, 2022
Saint Andrews Day in Scotland is celebrated on the 30th of November, honouring the day he was crucified. Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland ... and Russia, Barbados, Romania, Ukraine alongside several towns including a few in Italy and one in Portugal!
Who was St Andrew? Simply put, he was a fisherman with the gift of the gab. He was charismatic and hard working and he brought the first foreign people to meet Jesus. He died by crucifixion on an X shaped cross and is often depicted with this cross. The flag of Scotland, with it's X shaped cross, is directly linked to St Andrew.
There is a legend in the Scotichronicon written by Walter Bower in the 1440s that tells of the origin of the flag.
The legend describes King Angus leading a joint army of Picts and Scots against the Angles. They were outnumbered and the King prayed to St Andrew on the evening of the battle. St Andrew visited him in a dream and told him victory would be won and that on the day of battle, he would see the Cross of Christ in the sky. And, sure enough, during the battle that is exactly what he and his army saw, a shining cross against a beautiful blue sky. It gave them a morale boost and energy enough to overcome and win the battle. After this, St Andrew became the patron saint and the Saltire the national flag. Later versions of the legend from the 16th C onward would describe the Saltire appearing in the sky and this version is the one more commonly told now.
There is another version of how St Andrew became the patron saint of Scotland. The story goes that he was made patron saint when Scotland’s independence was declared at the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320. As St. Andrew was the brother of St. Peter, the founder of the church, the Scots were then able to appeal to the Pope for protection against the English. The Saltire is a key part of Scottish life and history. The first time the Saltire is mentioned in colour is in the Acts of Parliament of King Robert II in 1385. There was an order for every Scottish soldier to wear a white Saltire and if the uniform was white, the Saltire was to be stitched to a black background. Since then, the Saltire has been widespread and used frequently from the logos for banks to coins and seals. It has flown on Scottish ships and at the funerals of monarchs, including that of King James VI and his mother, Mary Queen of Scots.
The flag also has its place in folklore. When placed above the fireplace it was seen as a hex symbol in Scotland and some parts of the North of England. The symbol was said to stop witches flying in through the fireplace!
St Andrew has customs and traditions in many countries across the world. In Cyprus, it’s believed St Andrew was able to cure blindness. In Romania, On the morning of St Andrew’s day, mothers gather up tree branches and make a bunch for each family member. Whoever’s bunch bloom by New Year’s Day will have good luck and health that year.
Here in Scotland, Saint Andrew has been revered for longer than our written history can document and we celebrate with a bank holiday, lots of delicious food and drink and a good old ceilidh!
So on November 30th, Saint Andrews Day, join us at Saorsa by having a wee dram in honour of our patron saint!