National Tartan Day, observed in the United States on April 6 every year, commemorates the day that the Declaration of Arbroath (or the Scottish Declaration of Independence) was signed in 1320. The reason it’s so important is that the American Declaration of Independence was actually modeled on the Declaration of Arbroath and quite a big proportion of the Founding Fathers were of Scottish descent (almost half of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and nine of the 13 governors of the newly established United States, were Scottish!)
History of National Tartan Day
Tartan Day originated in Canada in the mid-1980s, where just over 15% of the population is of Scottish descent. It serves as a day for people of the Scottish diaspora to celebrate their heritage and the day on which Scotland became an independent country on April 6, 1320, with the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath, which awarded them full sovereignty and the right to defend themselves with their own military action.
Shortly after the Canadian establishment of Tartan Day, in 1998, the Coalition of Scottish Americans in the United States also successfully campaigned for April 6 to be commemorated as National Tartan Day to pay homage to the “the outstanding achievements and contributions made by Scottish Americans to the United States”.
From there it has spread all over the world and is mainly celebrated in Canada, America, Australia, and, strangely enough, Argentina, which has around 100 000 Scottish descendants, the largest community of that sort in a non-English speaking country.
As for Scotland itself, Tartan Day only became an established national festival in 2004, almost 20 years after the day was founded in Canada.
The name ‘Tartan Day’ refers to the woolen fabric woven in squares and crisscrossing lines, traditionally worn by members of the Scottish clans of old (see kilts) — if you’re still confused, a modern-day equivalent to it is plaid.
National Tartan Day timeline
The Scottish gain their independence by the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath.
The Federation of Scottish Clans in Nova Scotia proposes a ‘Tartan Day’ to nurture and acknowledge Canadian Scottish heritage.
Senate Resolution 155 is passed, which recognizes the strong Scottish presence among the Founding Fathers and attributes the creation of the Declaration of Independence as a direct product of the Declaration of Arbroath.
Referred to as the “greatest parade of Pipes and Drums ever seen”, the Tunes of Glory Parade took place on National Tartan Day in New York with over 8,000 pipers and drummers and Sean Connery as the grand marshal.
National Tartan Day FAQs
Can you wear any tartan on National Tartan Day?
It is encouraged that people wear the tartan of their clan or country on this day, but if you don’t have one, there are also 4 universal tartans: The Black Watch, The Hunting Stewart, The Caledonia, and The Jacobite.
Is National Tartan Day a public holiday?
Unfortunately, it’s not considered a public holiday. Businesses still operate on normal working hours, so you’ll have to put in leave if you want to partake in the festivities during the day.
Is National Tartan Day celebrated on April 6 globally?
No, in Australia this day is celebrated on July 1. They chose this day because it is the anniversary of the Repeal Proclamation of 1782, which declared the 1747 Act of Proscription invalid. This Act made it a punishable offense to wear a tartan and basically prevented the Scottish from practicing any customs typical to their country.
How To Celebrate National Tartan Day
Attend a parade
There are usually parades happening all over major cities on April 6. These parades showcase the best in traditional Scottish conventions, with people clothed in kilts of all colors and patterns and jovial bands consisting of bagpipes and drums, which will make you feel like you’ve been transported straight to the Scottish Highlands.
Don your kilt and sporran
If you don’t have one, get one. It’s not every day you get to wear a traditional Scottish kilt, and it doesn’t matter if you think you look ridiculous because, on this day, everyone’s doing it. In fact, if you don’t wear a kilt, you’ll probably feel left out. The sporran is another staple item in a true Scotsman’s wardrobe. ‘Sporran’ is Gaelic for purse, and that’s just what it is — a beautiful traditional pouch. Since most kilts don’t have pockets, the sporran is functional too, as it serves as a safe place to keep your phone and wallet.
Tuck into a traditional Scottish dish
Haggis and black pudding are both dishes that are unique to Scotland. Haggis consists of sheep lungs, heart, and liver, boiled in a bag with suet, oatmeal, and seasoning — it sounds less appetizing than it tastes! Black pudding isn’t actually a pudding — it’s pork sausage containing dried pig’s blood, suet, and oatmeal.
5 Facts About Scottish Customs That Will Blow Your Mind
The tartan is unique to every clan and country
Some countries have their own tartans with specific designs and colors — Canada’s tartan is called the Maple Leaf
The New Year’s Eve song is Scottish
That song that is universally belted out on New Year’s Eve is called ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and it’s originally a Scottish folk song, written by famous Scottish poet Robert Burns.
The origin of bagpipes
Bagpipes actually didn’t originate in Scotland but, rather, in ancient Egypt and the Middle East.
Gaelic is still spoken
Although English is the main language of Scotland, the ancient Celtic language, Gaelic, is still spoken in some parts of Scotland and even taught in some schools.
Scotland’s national animal is a unicorn
They dubbed it their national animal because unicorns symbolize purity, strength, unity, and courage, and also because the Scottish are really interested in myths and legends.
Why We Love National Tartan Day
It reminds Scottish descendants of their heritage
It’s important for people to be reminded of where they came from, especially in the global society we live in today. And in countries like the U.S. and Australia, the Scottish played a big role in helping to establish their independence and a large proportion of those populations are descendants of Scotland.
It gives people a reason to celebrate their Scottish roots in countries outside of Scotland
Bagpipes, kilts, haggis, and Scottish Highland dancing — these are all things that you won’t necessarily come across on a daily basis if you’re not living in Scotland. So it’s a great way to take a day and immerse yourself in Scottish customs.
It’s a great way for people who have no connections to Scotland to experience their traditions and customs
You don’t necessarily need to be Scottish or have Scottish blood to take part in the festivities. Tartan Day is open to anyone and everyone who has an interest in Scottish traditions and learning more about the country.
National Tartan Day dates