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American Tartan Day: Celebrating Our UK Heritage

Updated on May 8, 2017
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years of successful experience in medicine, psychology, STEM courses, and aerospace education (CAP).

Tartan Elephant at the Scottish National Gallery
Tartan Elephant at the Scottish National Gallery | Source

When Did This Holiday Begin?

This is an American holiday in honor of Scottish independence from Britain in 1320 AD. On March 9, 2005 the US House of Representatives voted in favor of House Resolution 41 to create National Tartan Day. In 2008, President George W. Bush added his Presidential Proclamation to the celebration.

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On October 21, 2010, the Minister of Canadian Heritage declared April 6 a holiday as well.

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Scotland declared the holiday for the first time in 2004.

April 6th is National Tartan Day in America and you can celebrate by researching your family history and finding whether you have any Scottish - or Irish - heritage. Both the Irish and the Scottish have the traditional plaid cloth designs to honor families. They both have bagpipes as well. The various clan plaids from which traditional clothing is made allows whole family to be recognized at once.

Both the Scottish and the Irish were instrumental in building America after they immigrated to the US during the Great Potato Famines that scourged their nations as well as Wales. Almost immediately upon arrival, the Celtic groups played important roles in building locomotives and laying the tracks for for them to travel.

A
Scottish Tartans Museum:
86 E Main St, Franklin, NC 28734, USA

get directions

Others began farming, weaving their music into the American tapestry to create much of the Appalachian tradition. Many of these people brought tartans with them to the US and their descendants have always kept them, either framed and displayed as art or packed in trunks. However, the plaids were worn over many Confederate uniforms during the Civil War.

Native Americans also wore tartan materials, because they were friendly with the Scots and Irish settlers, who treated them with respect.

Today, many of the original designs are housed in a museum located in the Great Smoky Mountains not far from the Appalachian Trail.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Floor looms like this one were used to make plaid wool materials and one is displayed at the North Carolina Museum.
Floor looms like this one were used to make plaid wool materials and one is displayed at the North Carolina Museum.
Floor looms like this one were used to make plaid wool materials and one is displayed at the North Carolina Museum. | Source
Source
April 6, 1320 was the day of independence for Scotland from British rule. This image shows their Declaration of Arboath.
April 6, 1320 was the day of independence for Scotland from British rule. This image shows their Declaration of Arboath. | Source
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Sir Walter Scott made up phony tartans for Scots and Englishmen.Monument to Sir Walter Scott in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Sir Walter Scott made up phony tartans for Scots and Englishmen.
Sir Walter Scott made up phony tartans for Scots and Englishmen. | Source
Monument to Sir Walter Scott in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Monument to Sir Walter Scott in Edinburgh, Scotland. | Source

Before his death in 1832, the renowned author of Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott, carried out an innovative propagandist measure by creating completely inauthentic, phony tartans.

Scott provided the materials to poor Scottish workers and to English government officials that were not closely related to anyone in the UK.Soon, nearly everyone could claim official clan membership based on the material designs Scott created and distributed.This lessened the status of the richer classes that wore full kilt and kit as status symbols.

The plaid plot included King George II, a German of the Hanover line. Imagine Scottish reactions when they discovered the German wearing a kilt!

If you think you may have a family-based historical tartan, then research your family history thoroughly and deal only with respectable dealers of genealogy products. As in Sir Walter's Scott's era, not all plaids are special. In fact, you can make up your own to celebrate the April 6th holiday in America; but, beware of expensive fake tartan dealers online and in brick and mortar shops.

How to Celebrate Tartan Day

Design Your Own

Create your own family kilt pattern for fun. After all, the original legitimate clan patterns were all created by someone and did not descend from Heaven on a cloud. The clans-people and their families created them out of wool, various dyes, and a floor loom.

If you have young children, you can work with them in order to come up with your own family crest or coat of arms and tartan. Write a history of your family and while you chose the symbols you selected for your coat of arms - get the grandparents involved - and keep the history with your creations. You might want to use your new creations on T-shirts for your next family reunion.

I created this tartan in just a few seconds.
I created this tartan in just a few seconds.

Several online graphic generators allow you to design your own tartan, even if you are not descended from Scots or the Irish. The most widely known of these generators are:

  • House of Tartan: house-of-tartan.scotland.net/interactive/weaver/
  • Plaid Maker: plaidmaker.com/
  • Scotweb: scotweb.co.uk/tartandesign/
  • Tartan Maker: tartanmaker.com/

The first maker on the list provides selections of up to six colors. You can experiment, selecting different combinations and seeing a swatch of the result each time. You can save your favorite and you can order cloth made in that pattern, but the cloth may be expensive. I remember a Scottish fabric and tailoring shop in Georgetown in Washington DC in the 1970s and finding the least expensive pattern on hand cost $40 per yard.

Check your clan pattern against all those that are officially registered in the National Records of Scotland. You can find a pattern or attempt to register a new pattern at www.tartanregister.gov.uk/index

Attend or Organize a Parade

Parades celebrating April 6th can be found across America and you can organize one in your own community as long as you receive a parade permit from the city or town. Neighborhood organizations may also be able to grant permission to parade, just as they do for July 4th.

Existing parades are held in the following communities:

  • New York City: The celebrations quickly expanded with dozens of additional events held three days before and after the national holiday.
  • Ellis Island: The Clan Currie Society sponsors and operates what they call the largest celebration of Scottish Independence in America. Scottish and Irish immigrants came through Ellis Island from 1892 to 1954 to find a better life in America.
  • Baltimore, Maryland.
  • Cayce, South Carolina: The holiday is celebrated during the Highland Games and Celtic Festival during four days in the latter part of March each year. Located at 2001 Charleston Highway Cayce, South Carolina 29033, this event is much like the combination of a state fair and a Renaissance Festival. IN 2017, Irish and Scotch Whiskey seminars made their first appearance.
  • San Diego, California.
  • St. Charles, Missouri.
  • Washington DC and nearby Alexandria, Virginia.


Attend a Bagpipe Concert

Your city may have a piper's association like the one in Columbus, Ohio::

  • Capital City Pipes and Drums Inc. 3400 Calumet St.; Columbus, OH 43214.
  • Cyril Scott Pipes and Drums Band. 1991 Stancrest Road; Dublin, Ohio 43016

Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, second only to England's Most Noble Order of the Garter.
Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, second only to England's Most Noble Order of the Garter.

Well Known Scots

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Well known actor Sean Connery, the first 007, with the USAF Reserve Pipe and Drum Band in Washington, DC. Tartan Day 2004.     US Senate Chaplain, Reverend Peter Marshall (1902 - 1949). Buzz AldrinJulia Child
Well known actor Sean Connery, the first 007, with the USAF Reserve Pipe and Drum Band in Washington, DC. Tartan Day 2004.
Well known actor Sean Connery, the first 007, with the USAF Reserve Pipe and Drum Band in Washington, DC. Tartan Day 2004. | Source
US Senate Chaplain, Reverend Peter Marshall (1902 - 1949).
US Senate Chaplain, Reverend Peter Marshall (1902 - 1949). | Source
Buzz Aldrin
Buzz Aldrin | Source
Julia Child
Julia Child

Some Famous Scots Descendants in America

  • Buzz Aldrin - Apollo 11. Second Man on the moon.
  • Neil Armstrong - Apollo 11. First man on the moon.
  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • Andrew Carnegie
  • Julia Child
  • Hugh Downs
  • Thomas Edison
  • Craig Ferguson - Scots-Irish, actually, and a US Citizen.
  • Malcolm S. Forbes
  • Billy Graham
  • Alexander Hamilton
  • John Paul Jones
  • Washington Irving
  • Peter Marshall - Pastor, husband to Catherine Marshall, writer.
  • Andrew Mellon
  • Samuel F.B. Morse
  • Grandma Moses
  • James Naismith - Invented basketball.
  • Allan Pinkerton - Detective
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • Gordon Ramsey - Hell's Kitchen and other Food TV.
  • Ginger Rogers
  • Willard Scott - The first Ronald McDonald, a TV weatherman, and a mystery writer.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson
  • James Whistler

My job is to find the politicians and the presidents and the pompous people who are telling other people how to live, powerful, visible creatures and ... go at them.

— Craig Ferguson

Royal Stewart Tartan

I am too distantly related to Clan Stewart to wear its tartan, but I am permitted to wear a traditional crest of the clan on a knee sock.
I am too distantly related to Clan Stewart to wear its tartan, but I am permitted to wear a traditional crest of the clan on a knee sock. | Source

US State Tartans

The US States and several individual American cities have begun to host seven-day celebrations of the holiday, with one Tartan Month observed in the USA.

Many groups hold Scottish themed parades, festivals, music events, dancing, food concessions, Burns Poetry contests, Highland Games, and many other sorts of activities.

It's all becoming as big as St.Patrick's Day. See the links below for more.

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CaliforniaTexas
California
California | Source
Texas
Texas | Source
Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh,  the official royal residence in Scotland, with the blue waters of the Firth of Forth shining int he distance.
Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, the official royal residence in Scotland, with the blue waters of the Firth of Forth shining int he distance. | Source

© 2010 Patty Inglish MS

Comments

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    • billyaustindillon profile image

      billyaustindillon 

      8 years ago

      Great Hub on tartan - there really are some wonderful traditions

    • profile image

      caretakerray 

      8 years ago

      Patty Inglish, MS:

      My mother was 100% Irish, but this is the first I heard od a tartan. I am going to design my own tartan and start a family tradition.

      thanx for a great hub. :)

      caretakerray

    • profile image

      EnLydia Listener 

      8 years ago

      I love everything Scottish or celtic, so this was enjoyable...I can practically hear the bagpipes and smell the heather

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for all these interesting information. I love tartan. There is something special about them.

    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 

      8 years ago from Michigan

      I didn't know anything about National Tartan Day before reading this. Thanks for all the great info!

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 

      8 years ago from UK

      Great hub! Really well-researched, well-presented and interesting! Great links too - like the make your own tartan one :)

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