Scotland Flag from PhotoEverywhere.co.uk – CC license
It’s time to celebrate all things Scottish. Dunk Walker’s shortbread in your tea, deep-fry a Mars Bar, eat chicken tikka masala. Read Robert Burns, watch Billy Connolly. Drop into conversation that your great-great-grandmother came from Dundee (actually, she did). Whatever you do, though, make sure you do it in tartan.
In 1982, New York City Mayor Ed Koch declared July 1 as Tartan Day, a one-off celebration of the 200th anniversary of the repeal of the Act of Proscription — the law forbidding Scots to wear tartan. Following this, Scottish-Americans lobbied the Senate for official recognition of Tartan Day, until eventually, in 2008, President George W. Bush signed a Presidential Proclamation making April 6th a day to
“celebrate the spirit and character of Scottish Americans and recognize their many contributions to our culture and our way of life.”
— which, naturally, entails a long parade through the streets of New York in an attempt to out-do the other Celts’ celebrations on March 17.
Not just New York, either. Tartan festivities are held throughout the rest of the USA, plus Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, although the last two stick to July 1 for their day of plaid fabric observance. Even Scotland joins in the fun.
However, do the U.S celebrations really “celebrate the spirit and character of Scottish Americans” as President Bush said? The key word in that phrase is, perhaps, “Americans.”
As Scottish expat and travel writer/blogger Aefa Mulholland says in her interview with Scotland’s Daily Record:
“People [in America] have very different views of Scottishness from what most people in Scotland would have today. Scottish-Americans tend to remember and celebrate Scotland the way it was when they left it.”
But that’s simply the way of the expat world: homesick for a place which doesn’t quite exist any more — only in memory.
On another note — it’s strange that a law banning an item of clothing should have such far-reaching celebrations. Certain U.S. towns currently making the wearing of saggy pants a criminal offense should perhaps ponder this point, for the benefit of future generations.
Question: Which style of dress would you like to see commemorated every year?
image: Scotts_flag by www.photoeverywhere.co.uk
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