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What day is it?

The good folks at Google are marking St Andrew’s Day today with one of their celebrated Doodles.

Although most commonly associated with Scotland, Saint Andrew is also the patron saint of Greece, Romania, Russia, Ukraine and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople [wherever that might be!?]

There are some very strange customs that are associated with this day, including:

  • If an unwed girl prays honestly to St Andrew the night before (29th November), she will be granted a good and caring husband
  • At exactly midnight, unwed girls should throw a shoe at the exit of the house.  If the tip of the shoe is pointing towards the exit then she will marry a noble and caring person and will leave her house within one year
  • Unwed girls should also peel an apple in one piece and then throw the peel backwards.  The letter which the peel has formed will be the first letter of the name of her future husband
  • It was traditional to eat a single sheep’s head on St Andrew’s Day
  • In Romania the women don’t just pray for husbands, they put 41 grains of wheat under their pillow.  If they dream someone will steal the grains, it apparently means they’ll get married the following year.

The Scottish flag, the Saltire, has the white diagonal ‘cross of St. Andrew’ on a blue background and is widely flown in Scotland. It would be natural to suppose therefore that Scots would celebrate St Andrew’s Day on November 30th in a big way.   THEY DON’T.   TV and radio mention the fact that it IS St. Andrew’s Day but that is about as far as it goes for most Scots.

However, in 2006, the Scottish Parliament passed the St. Andrew’s Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Act 2007, which designated the Day as an official bank holiday. If November 30 falls on a weekend, the next Monday is a bank holiday instead. Although that day is a bank holiday under that act, banks are not required to close (and don’t) and other employers are not required to give their employees the day off as a holiday. So it is more of a “voluntary public holiday” rather than a proper bank holiday. So far, few companies have negotiated the day as a staff holiday, though staff in Scottish government departments and a few local government authorities happily get an extra day off.

As every Scot knows, the time to celebrate Scottishness is Burns Night, January 25th. The poet Rabbie Burns holds a place of affection in the minds of Scots all over the world and perhaps this is why St Andrew’s Day passes with relatively little to mark it.

Football -v- Sperm Whales?

Last night there was a huge, foootball-shaped hole in my evening.  For the first time since 8th June there was no Euro2012 action and the TV schedulers failed to take advantage of this fact and give us anything else worth watching! 

At least tonight things are “back to normal” with the quarter-final match between the Czech Republic and Portugal kicking off at 19.45.

Czech Republic captain (and Arsenal player) Tomas Rosicky is still nursing the Achilles injury he picked up against Greece in the second group match but is hoping to still play and the Portuguese don’t appear to have any injury worries and are expected to name an unchanged side from the 11 that defeated the Dutch in the last game.  The same starting line-up incidentally that Portugal used in each match during the group stage – the only team to do this!

At the pre-match press conference today, Rosicky, sporting a beard along with the rest of the Czech squad, said he and his team mates would continue to grow their facial hair for as long as they remained at the tournament.

“We look scary as a team. Hopefully they (the beards) will get worse and worse,” he joked.

Of course, if you don’t like football, you could always watch Ocean Giants on BBC2.  The last in the series, this documentary (narrated by Stephen Fry) explores the vocal ranges of marine mammals.  Failing that, there is always Emmerdale and Lewis!!! 

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