International Tartan Day

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International Tartan Day
International Tartan Day

International Tartan Day is a commemoration of Scottish heritage and the cultural impact made by Scottish and Scottish-diaspora figures throughout history. The name is derived from tartan, a patterned woollen cloth closely associated with Scotland. The event originated in Nova Scotia, Canada, in 1987, and it subsequently expanded to other communities within the Scottish diaspora, as well as Scotland itself, during the 1990s and 2000s.

Origins and Purpose

  • Inception: The celebration of Tartan Day began in Canada in the 1980s and was later adopted in the United States in 1997, when the U.S. Senate officially recognized April 6th as National Tartan Day. It has since spread to other countries.
  • Historical Significance: April 6th was chosen because it is the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, signed in 1320. The Declaration of Arbroath is a historic document that asserted Scotland’s independence from England.
  • Purpose: The primary purposes of International Tartan Day are to:
    • Celebrate Scottish culture and heritage.
    • Recognize the contributions of Scots and their descendants to their adopted countries.
    • Promote the wearing of tartan, a traditional Scottish fabric pattern.

Celebrations and Activities

  1. Parades and Festivals: Many cities host parades and festivals featuring Scottish music, dance, food, and traditional dress. The New York City Tartan Day Parade is one of the most notable, attracting thousands of participants and spectators.
  2. Wearing Tartan: People are encouraged to wear tartan clothing and accessories, such as kilts, scarves, ties, and sashes, to show their pride in Scottish heritage.
  3. Highland Games: Some places hold Highland games, which include traditional Scottish athletic events, such as caber tossing, tug-of-war, and hammer throw.
  4. Cultural Performances: Events often feature performances of bagpipe music, Highland dancing, and Scottish folk songs.
  5. Educational Programs: Schools, museums, and cultural organizations may offer lectures, exhibitions, and workshops on Scottish history, culture, and the significance of tartan.
  6. Genealogy Research: Many people use Tartan Day as an opportunity to explore their Scottish ancestry and learn more about their family’s history.

Significance of Tartan

  1. Cultural Identity: Tartan is deeply symbolic of Scottish heritage and is associated with specific clans, regions, and historical events.
  2. Global Influence: Scottish immigrants have carried tartan with them around the world, making it a symbol of Scottish influence and legacy in many countries.
  3. Fashion and Tradition: Tartan has become a popular pattern in fashion and design, appreciated for its aesthetic and cultural connotations.

Historical Context

  • Declaration of Arbroath: Signed on April 6, 1320, the Declaration of Arbroath was a letter to Pope John XXII, asserting Scotland's independence from England and supporting Robert the Bruce as the legitimate king of Scotland. It is considered one of the most important documents in Scottish history and a symbol of Scottish pride and nationalism.

Key Locations and Celebrations

  • New York City Tartan Day Parade: One of the largest Tartan Day events, featuring pipe bands, Scottish clans, and cultural organizations marching through the streets of Manhattan.
  • Canadian Celebrations: Various cities across Canada, including Toronto and Ottawa, host parades and events to celebrate Tartan Day.
  • Australian and New Zealand Observances: In these countries, Tartan Day is celebrated with festivals, cultural events, and community gatherings, reflecting the significant Scottish influence in these regions.

How to Participate

  1. Wear Tartan: Incorporate tartan into your outfit on April 6th, whether it’s a full kilt or a simple tartan accessory.
  2. Attend Events: Participate in local Tartan Day events, parades, and festivals to immerse yourself in Scottish culture.
  3. Learn and Share: Educate yourself and others about the significance of Tartan Day and the history of Scotland by reading books, watching documentaries, or visiting relevant websites.
  4. Support Scottish Businesses: Purchase products from Scottish businesses, such as tartan clothing, Scottish food and drink, and handmade crafts.
  5. Host a Scottish-themed Gathering: Organize a get-together with friends and family featuring Scottish music, food, and activities.


International Tartan Day is a vibrant celebration of Scottish heritage and culture, providing an opportunity for people around the world to connect with their Scottish roots or simply appreciate the rich traditions of Scotland. By wearing tartan, participating in cultural events, and learning about Scottish history, people can honor the legacy of Scotland and its contributions to the world. Whether you have Scottish ancestry or just an admiration for Scottish culture, International Tartan Day offers a chance to celebrate and enjoy the unique heritage of Scotland.