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St Andrew's Day

St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. On November 30 Scots worldwide celebrate St Andrew’s Day through dinners, balls, ceilidhs and banquets, often supported by St Andrew’s Societies. In Auckland, New Zealand, half a world away from the inclement weather of Scottish winters, St Andrew's Day is celebrated with Highland Games. In 2007 the Scottish Government declared that St Andrew’s Day (or the nearest Monday should November 30 be on a Saturday or Sunday) would be a Bank Holiday in Scotland.

St Andrew was born in Bethsaida by the Sea of Galilee. He became first a disciple of John the Baptist and then a disciple of Jesus. St Andrew travelled widely to teach and preach his new faith. His travels gave him credence across cultural boundaries and his feast day is celebrated in several countries including Russia, Poland and Germany. St Andrew died in Greece after three days tied to a cross; it is said he continued to preach throughout his three days of suffering. The cross he died on is said to have been in the shape of an X, not the standard upright cross that was used for Jesus. The X, known as the Saltire or St Andrew’s Cross, appears on the Scottish flag.

So how did appreciation of St Andrew travel across the seas to Scotland? In the eighth century, in East Lothian, a battle took place between Picts and Northumbrians. It is told that the leader of the Picts, Unist, had a dream in which St Andrew came to him and told him he would be victorious. During the battle his warriors saw a cross form from clouds in the sky in the shape of a saltire, confirmation that Unist’s dream was true. The Picts won the battle, and the Scottish flag holds the blue of the sky and the white of the clouds that formed the cross

Britain’s future king Prince William and his fiancée Kate Middleton met whilst they were studying at the University of St Andrews. St Andrews is Scotland’s oldest University – it was founded in 1413. It is an institution which is highly regarded internationally and says that 37% of its students are from outside the UK. The town of St Andrews has 11 golf courses and houses the British Golf Museum. The town is often chosen for major golf tournaments such as The Open in 2010.

St Andrew is a name many know, but I was interested to find in my research for this article that many Scottish people I talked to had little knowledge of his life and history. He is a saint who was adopted by Scotland, whose bones now rest here, but whose story is often forgotten.

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