Tartan Day – A special holiday for All Scots
Americans of Scottish descent have played a vibrant and influential role in the development of the United States. From the framers of the Declaration of Independence to the first man on the moon, Scottish-Americans have contributed mightily to the fields of the arts, science, politics, law, and more. Today, over eleven million Americans claim Scottish and Scots-Irish roots — making them the eighth largest ethnic group in the United States. These are the people and accomplishments that are honored in the United States on National Tartan Day, April 6th.
April 6th was selected as the date for Tartan Day Celebrations because that is the date the Declaration of Arbroath was signed in 1320.
The Declaration of Arbroath is a declaration of Scottish independence, made in 1320. The Declaration is in the form of letters submitted to Pope John XXII intended to ask his support in the preservation of Scotland as an independent state. Letters were written to the pope by King Robert the Bruce, the Scottish Clergy and the Scottish Nobles.
A prototype Tartan Day event was held in New York City in 1982 supported by the leadership of New York Caledonian Club. The Governor of New York State, Hugh Carey and New York City Mayor, Ed Koch declared July 1, 1982, as Tartan Day. It was to be a one-time celebration of the 200th anniversary of the repeal of the August 12, 1747 law forbidding Scots to wear tartan. However, Tartan Day’s current format originated in Canada in the mid–1980s.
The first National Tartan Day in the United States (inspired by Canadian National Tartan Day Celebrations) was observed on April 6, 1997. Previously, there had been observances by individual states, counties and other regional entities, but the year 1997 was the first time the observance swept across the nation. The United States Senate Resolution declaring April 6th as Tartan Day appeared in the Congressional Record on April 7, 1997.
Thousands of Scots-Americans found ways to observe the first Tartan Day in churches, on village greens, at Scottish festivals, at social gatherings, and in the home.
Frequently a “Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans” is included in Tartan Day festivities. The Kirkin’, a Scottish-American ceremony, celebrates not only the family heritage of the descendants of Scottish immigrants to the United States and Canada, but also the friendship of our three nations in peace and war.
The Rev. Peter Marshall is believed to be the originator of the Kirkin o’ the Tartan service. During the Second World War, Rev. Marshall held prayer services at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington DC to raise funds for British war relief. Marshall was originally from Coatbridge, Scotland. It is believed that Marshall gave a sermon entitled “the Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans” on either April 27, 1941 or possibly May 1943.
Kirkin’s are held year-round, but St. Andrew’s Day (November 30th) and Tartan Day (April 6th) tend to be the most popular dates.
Tartan Day is now expanding internationally not only are there celebrations in Canada and the United States, but also in Australia, New Zealand and Argentina.