Wednesday, November 29, 2017
November 30 -- The Feast of Saint Andrew, Patron Saint of Scotland, Greece, Barbados and Russia, and the Symbol of Generosity and Helping Others
THE REAL NEWS TODAY IS THAT IT'S SAINT ANDREW'S DAY. Not many saints have a celebration that reaches beyond the borders of one country or region. Saint Patrick is surely the most famous and most widely celebrated saint in the Christian religion. That is probably because the good saint was renowned for chasing snakes out of Ireland -- a legend that refuses to be cast aside, even in the 21st century, and perhaps more important, the Irish love to celebrate almost anything and so as they spread over western Europe and to America, they took Saint Patrick with them and the world soon agreed that March 17 was the perfect day for parades, Irish songs, green beer and the celebration of Ireland and its patron Saint Patrick. And, of course, there is Saint Valentine, whose February 14 feast day is celebrated as the worldwide day of love. • There is also another saint who gets a lot of attention outside the country where he is the patron saint, and the attention is growing -- Saint Andrew. November 30 is his feast day, celebrated nationally in Scotland and everywhere that Scots have put down their roots outside their native soil. • • • WHO IS SAINT ANDREW? Saint Andrew was born in Bethsaida, in Galilee, which is now Israel. His remains were moved 300 years after his death to Constantinople, now Istanbul, by the Emperor Constantine. While he was generally revered in Scotland from around 1,000 AD when feasts began to be held in his honor, he didn't become Scotland's official patron saint until the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320 when Scotland's independence was declared. Since then Saint Andrew has become linked closely to much of Scotland's tradition. • Like his brother Simon Peter, Saint Andrew was a fisherman. Andrew, along with Peter, James and John formed the inner circle of Jesus’ 12 apostles. Andrew was, however, a disciple of Saint John the Baptist prior to becoming a follower of Christ. He was baptised by John the Baptist and was the first disciple of Jesus. In the Greek Orthodox tradition he is known as "Protokletos" -- literally "the first-called.” • Not a great deal is known about his early life, but he is mentioned in the Bible as taking part in the ‘Feeding of the Five Thousand.’ It is not bsolutely certain where he preached the Gospel, or where he is buried, but Patras in Achia claims to be the place where he was martyred and crucified. It is also not certain where Andrew actually preached -- Scythia, Thrace and Asia Minor have all been indicated -- but it appears that he traveled great distances in order to spread the word, and it may be this which links him with Scotland. Two versions of events claim this link. One legend comes from Andrew’s extensive travels, claiming that he actually went to Scotland and built a church in Fife, which is now called Saint Andrews, and the church became a center for evangelism, and pilgrims came from all over Britain to pray there. Another ancient legend recounts how it was after the death of Andrew, sometime in the 4th century, that several of his relics where taken to Fife by Rule, a native of Patras. Whichever legend is closer to the truth, we are unlikely to ever unravel the entire story of Saint Andrew's travels and whether he ever really visited Scotland. But, it is these links that explain why Andrew is now the patron saint of Scotland. Churches were dedicated to him from early times throughout Italy and France, as well as in Anglo Saxon England, where Hexham and Rochester were the earliest of 637 medieval dedications of churches to Saint Andrew. • On November 30, by law, every building in Scotland must display the Saltire, or Saint Andrew’s Cross, a flag whose imagery is itself intrinsically linked to the saint. Saint Andrew's Cross is also recognized on the union flag of Great Britain, sometimes referred to as the Union Jack, which is made up of three overlaid crosses. One of these crosses is the flag of Saint Andrew. He was crucified in Greece on 30 November 60 AD -- hence the date of his feast -- by order of the Roman governor Aegeas. Legend has it that he asked to be tied to an X-shaped cross because he did not feel worthy of dying on the same shape of cross as Jesus. The shape has been represented by the white cross on the blue Scottish flag, called the Saltire, since at least 1385. • Purported relics of Saint Andrew, including a tooth, kneecap, arm and finger bone, kept in the town of Saint Andrews, made the tiny town a popular medieval pilgrimage site until the 16th century -- when they were destroyed in the Scottish Reformation. In 1870, the Archbishop of Amalfi sent an apparent piece of the saint's shoulder blade to Scotland, where it has since been stored in Saint Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh. Today, pilgrims of another sort make the journey from all over the world to the city of Saint Andrews, internationally recognized as the traditional home of golf. • Saint Andrew is not just the patron saint of Scotland. Greece, Russia, Italy’s Amalfi and Barbados also count Saint Andrew as their patron saint. He’s also seen as the patron saint of singers, spinsters, maidens, fishmongers, fishermen, women wanting to be mothers, gout and sore throats. Saint Andrew is also the patron saint of the Order of the Thistle, one of the highest ranks of chivalry in the world, second only to the Order of the Garter. • • • WHY IS SAINT ANDREW SO IMPORTANT? It’s worth considering how Saint Andrew came to be so important to Scotland. The answer is surprisingly simple, and sums up some of the most prominent characteristics that you can find in Scots both at home and abroad. Despite his relatively humble upbringing, Saint Andrew was known throughout his life for being a generous man. When Scots talk of him today, they specifically look at these traits that made him so saintly (figuratively and, later, literally). Saint Andrew’s philosophy was incredibly simple : take what you have and share it with those less fortunate. He became known as a strong and fair man who took every opportunity to help others whenever he could. His fairness and generosity have struck a chord with Scots for thousands of years and they still remain important aspects of how the Scottish treat others. Anyone who has visited Scotland can vouch that this co-operative spirit. If you’re lost, there’s always someone there happy to point you in the right direction. In fact, Scotland is known around the world for its incredibly warm welcome and friendliness. It’s one of the many things that keeps people going back to visit. • • • THE SCOTS TOOK THEIR SAINT WITH THEM AROUND THE WORLD -- BEGINNING WITH AMERICA. Despite the fact that Saint Andrew has been Scotland’s patron saint for almost a thousand years, it wasn’t until the 18th century that the popular celebration of his feast day became commonplace. What might surprise you even more is that the tradition of celebrating on November 30 was not even technically started in Scotland, but by a group of Scots in the United States who wanted to reconnect with their Scottish roots. It all began with the creation of the "Saint Andrew’s Society of Charleston" in South Carolina, founded in 1729 by a group of wealthy Scottish immigrants. The organization is actually the oldest Scottish society of its type in the world and was set up with one simple goal -- to adhere to Saint Andrew’s philanthropic beliefs. The Charleston Society became famous throughout the region for its work assisting orphans and widows in the area. This was followed by another society, in New York, which was founded in 1756. "The Saint Andrew’s Society of the State of New York" is the oldest charity of any kind registered in New York and was founded by Scotsmen who wanted to give relief to the poor and distressed in the town. From these seeds, Saint Andrew’s societies have spread around the world as Scots have travelled and settled everywhere. They have taken with them the ideals of their homeland and its patron saint and helped spread the kindness and goodwill that Saint Andrew was known for. • • • DEAR READERS, Saint Andrew’s Day has become more and more special to Scots and ranks as one of three major dates during the winter period. Starting off Scotland’s Winter Festival each year on November 30, people across the country gather together to celebrate Saint Andrew and share good times. The day is usually marked with a celebration of Scottish culture, including dancing, music, food and drink, with parties going on long into Scotland's cold winter nights. • To celebrate the day, many a Scot will have a wee dram of whisky and say thank you to Saint Andrew for Scotland's blessings. If you know someone named Andrew, wish him a happy feast day on Thursday. And, above all, give a thought and a hand to someone you know who may need a little extra help to get by.