National Tartan Day

On April 6, Scottish communities celebrate National Tartan Day, which commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath, a declaration of independence from Norman kings in 1320. The day features celebration of Scottish culture. In the United States, Tartan Day also honors the efforts of Scottish Americans, especially their efforts fighting on the side of the colonies during the American Revolution.

Traditions

Celebrations of Tartan Day feature Scottish cultural events, such as pipe bands and Scottish dances. Larger cities, like New York, hold parades, often made up of bagpipe bands. Participants often wear kilts that signify their clan. “Tartan” refers to the crisscrossed pattern of these kilts. Other events include dinners, awards, and educational events at schools and libraries. Festivities may include a meal, which often features traditional dishes such as haggis.

New York is known for one of the largest celebrations, the Tunes of Glory Parade, which features over 8,000 musicians playing pipes and drums. Other significant celebrations in the US take place in St. Charles, Missouri, Washington D.C., and Baltimore. Many of these celebrations are held by Scottish-American Societies, which put on receptions and a Tartan Day Festival in Virginia, an educational and cultural program held at the beginning of April.

International cities take part in many Tartan Day festivities. Regions of Scotland combine to put on Tartan Day festivals throughout the country. The large Scottish populations in Australia and New Zealand result in many festivals and events commemorating the holiday. Other celebrations take place in Ottawa, Canada, and Buenos Aires, Brazil.

Holiday History

The Declaration of Arbroath served to declare Scottish independence from English control. It established Scotland as an independent state and declared the right to defend itself from military force. It was sent to Pope John XXII. Up until that point, Scotland had been ruled as a feudal land by Norman kings. The document also pointed out that Scotland had long been independent, and that English control was unjust. Although no copies of this document still exist, it is believed to be one of the inspirations for the American Declaration of Independence.

Tartan Day also celebrates Scottish efforts in the Revolutionary War. Many Scots migrated to the colonies in search of religious freedom and economic opportunity. Most Scottish immigrants settled in Pennsylvania to farm. As seen with the Declaration of Arbroath, the Scots had a history of clashing with British rule, instilling a resentfulness that inspired many Irish-Americans to take up arms against them. Many saw the conflict in the colonies as a continuation of their struggles with Britain.

Some countries celebrate Tartan day in July or August. Tartan Day celebrations have risen in popularity since local officials began to establish the holiday in the 1980s and 1990s. The United States did not declare an official Tartan Day until 2008.

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