What Is St Andrews Day All About?

By | March 2, 2017

Do you know who the patron saint of Scotland is? Have you heard about St Andrews Day and do you know the origin behind this day? Well in this post I will explain what this day is all about, so please read on.

What Is St Andrews Day All About?

Before I continue to explain the origin of this special day I must make a correction. In fact it is “St Andrew’s Day“, and not “St Andrews Day” as there was only one Andrew. So now that I have explained that then let’s move on.

Special Date:

St Andrew’s Day – November 30th


When Is This Special Day?

Saint Andrew, (Scots: Saunt Andra’s Day, Scottish Gaelic: Là Naomh Anndrais), is the feast day of Saint Andrew who is the patron saint of Scotland. The date for this day is celebrated on November 30th. This is the date in 60AD that he was crucified.

When Is St Andrew's Day?

The Scottish Parliament in 2006 designated St Andrew’s Day a bank holiday, (a public holiday). Due to this no government buildings and schools are open on this day. Public transport will typically run to a holiday schedule. If this day falls on the weekend however then the following Monday is declared a bank holiday.

This public holiday though may not have existed if it were not for the persistence of its supporters. It was first introduced in 2003, and in 2005 it was rejected by the Scottish Parliament. This was due to the hesitancy that an extra holiday would be detrimental to the economy.

On further negotiations it was decided that this day would be a national holiday, if it would replace an existing holiday. The act of a St Andrew’s Day Bank Holiday was passed by the Scottish Parliament on November 29th 2006. The Queen gave Royal Assent on January 15th the following year, and then the first St Andrew’s Day bank holiday was observed on November 30th 2007.

Is it a bank holiday or not?!

Even though this day is a bank holiday banks are not required to close and the bank’s employees are not subjected to a day off.

Saint Andrew is also the patron saint for many other countries besides Scotland. These include of Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, San Andres Island, Colombia, Saint Andrew, Barbados and Tenerife.

He is also the patron saint for fishmongers and fishermen, as well as women wanting to be mothers, singers, spinsters and maidens. And if that’s not enough he is the patron saint of sort throats and gout.

St Andrews Day is also the first day of the traditional Advent devotion of the St. Andrew Christmas Novena.


Origin of St Andrew and About Andrew

Andrew was born at the start of the 1st Century and lived in the fishing village of Bethesda. This village is located on the north eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Andrew was on of Jesus’s disciples, like his brother Peter. Both of them were fishermen. It is believed that he preached around the shores of the Black Sea. He was known as both agile and hardy, and he also had good social skills.

Origin of St Andrew

Andrew was crucified in the city of Patras in western Greece. He did not wish to be crucified on the familiar shaped X crucifix. Instead he wanted to be crucified on the traditional T shape like his master Jesus had died on. This X shaped crucifix is called “The Saltire“. It is symbolized on the Scottish flag as a white cross on a blue background.

Sometime after his death Constantine the Great is said to have taken Andrew’s remains to the capital city of Rome, Constantinople. Constantine was a pagan but later converted to Christianity. He would later make Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire.

St Andrews in Scotland!

300 years after this his remains were on the move again. This time by either an Irish or Greek monk. The monk, named St Rule, wanted to take the remains “to the ends of the earth“. He did so under the instruction of an angel. He took with him a number of Andrew’s fragments on his journey. These are said to be a tooth, kneecap, arm and a finger bone.

A piece of St Andrew’s should blade is set to be stored in St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh. However, the remaining fragments are set to have been destroyed in the Scottish Reformation.

St Rule was shipwrecked off the east coast of Scotland. Subsequently the location of where he was shipwrecked was then called Saint Andrews. The Pictish king Oengus I would build a monastery at in this town, which had become a popular pilgrimage site until the 16th Century.

As with all legends of heroes and saints there is always more than one side of the story, or rather in this case a completely different origin to this story.

This second story persists that it was a bishop who brought over the relics of St Andrew much later in the year 733. This bishop then house his remains in the chapel at this location.

          

Scotland’s claim to having Saint Andrew as their patron saint had one advantage for the population. As Andrew was the brother of Peter, (leader of the Church), then this gave them the protection that they needed against invading English kings. The Scots appealed to the Pope in 1320 on these grounds.

St Andrew’s, The Scottish Flag

As I pointed out earlier the cross of St Andrew features on the Scottish flag? But how did this come about? Why is it a white cross and why on a blue back ground? Well the story behind this is rather simple.

The tribe of the Picts joined forces with the Scots. This faction then went to war against the Angles in 832AD. The Angles were one of the main Germanic people who had settled in Britain after the Roman Empire had fallen.

The leader of this joined force was called Oengus II. As Oengus’s army was significantly outnumbered he declared that if his army were victorious in battle then he would see that Saint Andrew would become the Patron Saint of Scotland.

On the morning of the battle white clouds formed the shape of an X against the blue sky. The Picts and Scots ultimately won the battle and Saint Andrew thus became the Patron Saint of Scotland.

To add to this story it is also said that Oengus had a dream the night before the battle took place. In this dream he was given the message that he would see a cross in the sky and that he would be victorious.


What To Do On St Andrew’s Day?

So know that you know the origin of St Andrew and St Andrew’s Day how can you celebrate it? Well to start with the Scottish flag, or the Saltire as I have mentioned, is flown from public buildings on this day. You can also fly the flag if you wish, or display it on a T-shirt or top.

Celebrate St Andrew's Day

As this is a public holiday many people take the day off work to celebrate. The people of Edinburgh in fact celebrate for a whole week. There is musical entertainment put on as well as ceilidh dancing. You maybe wondering what is ceilidh? Well, this is a social event where couples dance in circles or sets with as many as eight people in a group.

In Glasgow there is a large shindig, (party), put on for the population. Even though this is called a shindig it is very much the same thing that is observed in Edinburgh. Meanwhile in the market town of Dumfries songs are performed in the tradition of the Burn’s night. This latter event is a supper to celebrate both the life and poetry of the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns.

          

Who Is Your Future Husband?

The Scots are a superstitious lot. Well, I suppose that can be said for anyone really, can’t they? There is though the superstition associated with this date and that of young Scottish women.

On the night of November 29th at midnight women peel an apple in one single piece. They then throw this piece over their shoulder. The shape of the peel as it lands on the ground will then indicate to these young women the first letter of their future husband’s name.

Not only do young women before this unusual act but they will also drop molten lead or candle wax into a bucket of water. But why? Well, it is said that the form of the resultant metal or wax will indicate the profession of their future husband.


Final Thoughts

You don’t have to be Scottish to join in the festivities of this day. But it will make it special for you if you have Scottish ancestry or know someone who is Scottish. You may even wish to show to your friends your knowledge of Saint Andrew with the information on this page. Please share this post, I encourage you.


Start Looking

Why not research your Scottish ancestors on this day? You can use the many tips and guides found on this site to begin your family history journey. There is just so much that you will discover and who knows it may quite surprise you. So take the first step today!


Thank You and Please Leave A Comment

I hope you enjoyed this article explaining what is St Andrews Day, or rather St Andrew’s Day to be exact. If you think that this post will be helpful to others then please share it with friends and family using the social media buttons below.

If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you.

Author: Owain

Hello, Owain here. After researching my family history for a number of years I wanted to give back to the genealogy world. So here you will find guides, tips and product reviews that will help you on your genealogy journey.

10 thoughts on “What Is St Andrews Day All About?

  1. Elizabeth

    Thank you, Owain.

    This was a great read, and I learned something. I always like reading about the saints. This was a two fer one, ’cause I also got to read about Scottish culture. Now I can talk more intelligently to my Scottish neighbor about his heritage.

    I find it amazing that this holiday only came into being in the 21st century. I wonder why? I also wonder what lead to St. Andrew’s crucifixion. You could definitely write a follow-on article if you wanted to!

    Reply
    1. Owain Post author

      Thanks Elizabeth. I am glad that you liked it. You can also learn about the other patron saints of Britain and Ireland in this post.

      The British seem to be hesitant when it comes to granting public holidays. This is probably because by having a holiday the economy would suffer as no one or hardly anyone is working. The government just doesn’t seem to think that it is important to grant more holidays.

      St Andrew was crucified due to his Christian religion. I will have to see how I can further add to this post, thank you.

      Reply
  2. Craig | UK TV Services Abroad

    Hi Owain,

    Nice read! I am from Scotland so I know how patriotic my fellow Scots are. To now have St Andrew’s Day as a public holiday kind of confirms that. I’m pretty sure St George’s Day in England isn’t a public holiday? I may be wrong, please correct me if I am. It’s funny how we still call public holidays BANK holidays. I have lived overseas for a long time and people don’t understand what a bank holiday is in other countries. Always makes me laugh.

    I always thought the X on the Saltire was a representation of the cross that St Andrew was crucified on so thanks for clarifying this, I was well wrong! Very interesting that some of his remains may be in Edinburgh. There’s another story that a piece of Jesus’ cross may be in Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh where the Queen sometimes stays on her visits to Edinburgh. Translation: Holyrood = Holy Cross. These things always fascinate me. Thanks again for a very interesting article mate!

    Reply
    1. Owain Post author

      Hi Craig,

      Both St George’s Day and St David’s Day are not as yet public holidays. So only St Andrew and St Patrick at present are honored with days off work. I hear you when you say bank holidays. Most other countries refer to them as public holidays instead.

      I am glad that I cleared up how the X papers on the Scottish flag. Thank you for sharing the account of Hollywood. Very interesting. I like origin stories like this. Not only do they educate us about the past, but they make me feel smarter by knowing them.

      Reply
  3. Helen Vella

    Coming from Aberdeen, Scotland I used to love celebrating the bank holidays as we got to go into the highlands and go to all the games etc. When I was a kid it was great because we got to see the Queen and her kids bit more casual then. Great post and thanks for the in depth research.

    Reply
    1. Owain Post author

      Thank you for sharing Helen. Sounds like you really enjoyed the bank holidays then. It’s a shame that both England and Wales don’t have a public holiday to celebrate their patron Saint.

      Reply
  4. Kurtis Quick

    I always find it interesting that most of the saints we have days after now, had to be crucified in their day and age. History has some real darkness to it. Interesting read!

    Reply
    1. Owain Post author

      You are right Kurtis, it is a shame that most of the saints had to die for what they believed in. I know that St David, the patron saint of Wales died naturally.

      History certainly has a dark side. That is one reason why I like researching my family history. You don’t know what you will uncover, and some of it may be unpleasant. At the end of the day though it is still your family history and needs to be preserved.

      Reply
  5. Brandon

    I actually had no idea what St Andrews Day was all about, but that’s because I’m from New Zealand. We don’t get any many holidays.

    But after reading this article, you have answered all my questions and concerns that I have regarding it. And thanks for clearing that up about it being spelt as St Andrews instead of St Andrew’s, I actually didn’t know which one was correct.

    Anyway, thanks for this amazing article. I now know that this holiday is in Scotland, why they have this holiday and what day it is on.

    Cheers!

    -Brandon

    Reply
    1. Owain Post author

      Well I am glad that I cleared that up for you Brandon. You may also like to read up about the other patron saints of Britain and Ireland.

      I feel like at these times when we remember our patron saints and the heritage of our respected country that we should also look to our ancestors and remember them as well. That is why I included this topic on my site here. We should all remember and discover our family’s past.

      Reply

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