What They Say in Scotland

Spectacles similar to the Edinburgh tattoo have been seen at various Highland games, where there is usually a pipeband competition.  In recent years, however, these have been upstaged by the growing popularity of the Tartan Day celebrations.  In just a few years this event has grown into a genuine phenomenon that threatens to become the most significant date in the Scottish calendar.  Like "Kirking the Tartan," it is a tradition that has developed outside Scotland rather than within it.

The initial impetus came from Canada.  In 1987 Nova Scotia held its first Tartan Day as a tribute to the achievements of those of its citizens who had Scottish roots.  The event proved a success and there were moves to extend it to other parts of the country.  Then in December 1991, at the instigation of the Clans and Scottish Societies of Canada, Ontario followed suit.  Soon all the provinces had become involved, with the exception of Quebec and Newfoundland.

It did not take long for a similar momentum to build up south of the border.  In March 1998, the US Senate passed a resolution confirming 6 April as National Tartan Day.  That date was chosen because it marked the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath which was signed on 6 April 1320.  In effect this was Scotland's Declaration of Independence which Robert the Bruce and his followers sent to Pope John XXII, asserting their right to be free of the "yoke of English domination."  It ended with the memorable sentiment:  "For it is not for glory, riches or honour that we fight, but for freedom alone, that which no man of worth yields up, save with his life."

The Arbroath document holds a particular resonance for all Americans, since their own Declaration of Independence was modeled on it.  It is significant, too, that nearly half of the signatories of the American declaration had Scottish roots, while out of the 13 original United States, 9 had governors with Scottish ancestry.

Since its inception there have been Tartan Day celebrations in Washington, New York City, Boston, and Chicago, and it seems certain that other cities will copy this example.  The tone of the festivities is similar to those of St. Patrick's Day.

Tartan Day is not celebrated in the same way in Scotland, but politicians have been swift to recognize its value as a means of creating closer ties across the Atlantic.  In 2003, Sir David Steel commented:  "Tartan Day is hugely important . . . It captures the essence of the special links enjoyed by Scotland, Canada and America.  I have no doubt Tartan Day . . . will reinforce this and help us gain a deeper mutual understanding."*
*The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Tartan, by Iain Zaczek and Charles Phillips, Lorenze Books, London, 2004.

                  National Tartan Day Society of Washington

In 1999, a year after the US Senate resolution, a handful of Scots organized the first Tartan Day celebration in Washington state.  It was a small event held at Madigan Army Medical Center near Tacoma.  Since then the annual Tartan Day celebration has grown, with increasing public attendance and larger numbers of clan societies participating.

The National Tartan Day Society of Washington carries the concept farther.  Instead of a single Tartan Day celebration we promote Scottish heritage and culture all through the year.  This is primarily done by staffing a tent at all Washington state Highland games where we assist people in finding their clan affiliation, identifying their tartans, and answering questions related to Scotland and its history and culture.  Additionally, we assist the People by either directing them to their clan if a clan representative is at that Highland games, or to where they can connect with their clan, either on the Internet or by a local point of contact's name, address and telephone number.

Besides the Highland games the Society is very active in the Washington state Scottish community.  Shown below are activities and events we participated in during 2016.  The events in italics were social at which many Society members attended as a group


January                                                                           February

                                                                                       Clan Gordon Pipe Band Tartan Ball -
Tacoma Scots Pipe Band Burns Night - Fife                         Puyallup
                                                                                       Gung Haggis Fat Choy - Seattle

March                                                                              April

Celtic Festival - Olympia                                                  
 Tartan Day Observance Ceremony                                                 
 June                                                                                 July

Bellingham Highland Games - Ferndale                                Skagit Valley Highland Games - Mt Vernon
Scottish Fest - Prosser                                                        Pacific Northwest Highland Games -
Tacoma Highland Games - Graham                                       Enumclaw

August                                                                              September

Spokane Highland Games - Spokane                                    Kelso Highland Games - Kelso
Hood Canal Celtic Highland Festival

October                                                                             November

Clan Donald All Clans Banquet - Federal Way                     Pacific Northwest Highland Games
                                                                                           Association Heather Tartan Ball - Seattle



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