St. Andrew's Night

St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland (and Greece and Russia). St Andrew's Day is celebrated on the 30th November.

It tends to be more popular with Scots who live abroad and there are many St. Andrew's Societies in places where Scots emigrated to.

St. Andrew's Day used to be a very popular feast day in Scotland as well. It was a common custom for farm workers and labourers to go "St. Andra'ing". They would catch rabbits and hares and later on in the day would feast and drink. There have been debates on and off for some time now about making St. Andrew's Day a public holiday in Scotland.

Many people wonder what they should eat on St. Andrew's day. Because Andrew was a fisherman, it seems appropriate to eat fish. Otherwise you could eat any traditional Scottish food. It used to be that a singed sheep's head was traditional!

St. Andrew's day is celebrated all over the world with fine Scottish food and a ceilidh. The traditional Scottish recipes below are examples of the kind of fare that could be offered at such a gathering on 30th November to celebrate St Andrew’s day.


The music played at the ceilidh would be well known Scottish melodies such as those found in the Scottish Ceilidh Collections for Fiddlers series or The Fiddle Music of the Scottish Highlands.



Scotch Broth or Scottish Cullen Skink

Main Course Choices:

Scottish Herring in Oatmeal or Salted Herring, Beef in Whisky Sauce, Scotch Eggs, Finnan Haddie, Stovies, Haggis.

Desserts and sweets:

Scottish Clootie Dumpling or Crannachan, Dundee Cake, Angus Toffee, Scottish Tablet


Whisky, Rob Roy, Mary Queen of Scots

Andrew as the Patron Saint of Scotland

It was very important in the early days of Christianity that the bones of saints, and other articles that had been closely associated with them, should be preserved. This helped people to understand that Saints were real people, no matter how extraordinary their lives had. These objects were known as relics and often the relics of the saints would be split up and parts given to different churches.

The story of St. Andrew is a complex one, with different versions and interpretations. It is now impossible to know what is the "true" story. He is thought to have been the younger brother of Simon Peter i.e. Saint Peter and both became apostles of Jesus Christ and worked as a fishermen in Galilee.

After Christ's crucifixion, one version of the legend is that Andrew went to Greece to preach Christianity, where he was crucified for his beliefs at a place called Patras, on a cross in the form of an X. However, the X-shaped cross played little part in early legends of St. Andrew and indeed in early versions of the tale, Andrew was nailed to an olive tree, not a cross. The diagonal shape of this cross is the basis for the Cross of St. Andrew which appears on the Scottish Flag.

One legend says that a man who later became St. Regulus (or Rule) carried the bones of St. Andrew to Scotland. His ship was wrecked on the Fife coast, and the spot at which the ship landed became the site of the town of St. Andrews. A cathedral was built there which was started in 1160 and took 158 years to build (the ruins can still be seen today) and the town became an important site of Christian pilgrimage.

Another legend has it that two monks from the North of England went to Rome and brought back the relics of St. Andrew. One of the monks passed the relics on to the reigning king in Scotland at the time - Angus McFergus who became king in 731.

Again there are different legends surrounding the use of the Saltire as Scotland's flag. Some people say that Angus dreamt one night that St. Andrew appeared to him and promised him a great victory. Angus was about to fight a battle with another king from the North of England, and this dream made him believe that the Scots would win. On the day of the battle a white cross appeared in the sky and Angus did win - this is why the flag of Scotland is sky blue with a white cross. The battle was at a place called Athelstaneford in the year 831.

The other version says that Angus was walking with some friends when St. Andrew appeared to him and told him that when he marched against his enemies he would see the white cross. So Angus had banners made for his soldiers to carry to battle with the white cross on them.

One of the first times that Andrew is recognised officially as the patron saint of Scotland was at the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320. This was a declaration signed by many of the Scottish noblemen, as well as Robert the Bruce, asserting Scotland's independence from England.

St Andrew's relics disappeared during the Reformation of the Scottish churches, when the Protestant Church came into being and broke away from the Roman Catholic church. Now there are few relics of Andrew in Scotland. A fragment is in St. Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh.

Other countries have St. Andrew as their patron saint - Romania, Greece and Russia. Scotland is one of the few countries to have one of Christ's disciples as their patron saint.

Finding out more about St Andrew:

The following books are available:

  • HALL, Ursula : St. Andrew and Scotland St Andrews University Library, 1994, 0900897120. A more scholarly book aimed at adults.
  • HANNAY, R. K. : St Andrew of Scotland The Moray Press, 1934. Despite this book's venerable age, it was written with younger people in mind and so the language is not too impenetrable.
  • LAMONT, Stewart : The life of Saint Andrew : Apostle, Saint and Enigma Hodder and Stoughton, 1997, 0340678577 Paperback, aimed more at adults.
  • MCOWAN, Rennie : Saint Andrew for beginners Saint Andrew Press, 1996, 0715207253 Very much aimed at children.
  • TURNBULL, Michael T. R. B : Saint Andrew : Scotland's myth and identity Saint Andrew Press, 1997, 0715207237 Aimed at adults and looks at the history of St. Andrew, as well as what he has meant to Scots at home and abroad.

There is also a short entry on St Andrew in the Collins Encyclopedia of Scotland and information on St. Andrews Day in the Silver Bough by F. Marian McNeill. Edwin Sprott Towill's book the Saints of Scotland also has some brief information.