PICTOU – Across the world and right here at home, Apr. 6 marked a celebration of Scottish culture, food and dress. Tartan Day celebrations took place in Pictou with the Festival of the Tartans at the McCulloch Heritage Centre. The schedule of events included a traditional Scottish breakfast, haggis tasting, a lecture on the evolution of highland dress, a scotch tasting and a ceilidh.
Many in attendance wore simple scarves or neckties of plaid or tartan print while others wore kilts and Glengarry bonnets.
Robbie MacInnis, the pipe major for the Na Gaisgich band in Pictou, delivered the lecture on the Evolution of Highland Dress. He said the romanticism associated with Scottish dress has increased interest in the wearing of kilts and other items.
“It really started when the movie Braveheart came out,” said MacInnis. “There was a resurgence in wanting to wear Scottish dress.”
One result of this, said MacInnis, is the proliferation of cheaper, lesser-quality items. “A full wool kilt will cost you around $800 while a wool-polyester blend will only cost $85.”
Faus Johnson in Pictou led the scotch tasting session, which featured 12-, 15- and 18-year-old Glenfiddich, a Balvenie and a Grant.
“I only recently started enjoying scotch,” Johnson said. “I’ve played in pipe bands and it’s a part of the culture – a drink before to quench the throat and after to celebrate.”
His own Scottish ancestry, he said, is in the lowlands whose inhabitants were traditionally farmers unlike the warriors of the highlands.
As for scotch, Johnson said one technique for enjoying this made-in-Scotland spirit is tried and true. “Nose it, have a small taste, add a little water and enjoy all the smells and tastes.”
Tartan Day in Canada, April 6th, has become a yearly event. The concept of "Tartan Day" began at a meeting of the Federation of Scottish Clans in Nova Scotia in March 1986. Members Bill Crowell and Jean MacKaracher-Watson put forward the following motion to the Federation to establish ‘Tartan Day.’
Having been started originally as ‘Tartan Day in Nova Scotia," Jean Watson approached every provincial legislative assembly in Canada, as well as other Scottish-cultural societies across Canada, to help get such a date established.
After 10 years, Tartan Day in Canada was approved in every provincial assembly by premier’s proclamation or member’s bill, the last being in the National Assembly at Québec City, where it was finally proclaimed in December 2003 – 16 years after it the first such proclamation in Nova Scotia.
April 6th in Scotland is the date of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, which states in part:
"...It is in truth, not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself..."
In Canada, Tartan Day, April 6th, Canadians are encouraged to wear tartan in commemoration of the contributions of Scots and their descendants to the fabric of our society.