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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.

How petty?

If this story is true then it’s a sad day for anyone with any national pride – and I’m not just talking about Scotland!

A firefighter is claiming that Grampian Fire & Rescue Service (GFRS) chiefs have removed the Saltire from the front grille of two new appliances after just 2 complaints (one internal and the other from a member of the public) which branded the use of the national flag as “offensive”.   It is understood the complaints centred around the Saltire’s link to the SNP and fears the flag could be viewed as a sign of support for Scottish independence, but Grampian Fire and Rescue said the move was simply to bring the two appliances into line with the rest of the fleet.

The new engines, which cost just over £200,000 each, were given the Saltire logo in advance of Scotland’s eight fire brigades being merged into one unitary authority next spring and when they were unveiled in August, Grampian’s fleet manager Raymond Cheyne said: “The badging for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is needed because of the new single Scottish service coming into being next April.  We wanted to celebrate the new Scottish Service coming into place so chose to use the Saltire. We’ve used high-visibility striping to make it part of the functional design of the appliance.”   However, when contacted by the press over the removal of the Saltires, Mr Cheyne stated: “I don’t want to comment.”

And there was me thinking that the Saltire is the national flag for ALL Scots and as such should not cause offence to anyone living in Scotland.  And, surely 2 complaints are not a reflection of true public opinion – that can hardly be called “public outrage”!   What is the world coming to?

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