Monday, November 29, 2010

Piping Up

Magnet # 405:  Scottish Bagpipes


Material:  Rubber


Purchased By:  Me

Scotland observes its official national day, St. Andrews Day, tomorrow.  It's held in honor of its patron saint, Saint Andrew, even though he never traveled there during his lifetime.  He was the brother of Saint Peter and they were both fishermen and Apostles.  Legend holds that Andrew was martyred by being tied to an X-shaped cross and that he requested that he not be hung on the same sort of cross as Christ, as he didn't consider himself worthy of that honor.  The X-shape has consequently come to be known as his symbol.  He died in the Greek city of Patras and has gone on to become that nation's patron saint, as well as that of Romania, Russia, and, of course, Scotland.  It's believed that some of his relics were later were transferred from Constantinople to the city of St. Andrews in Scotland in the 700s under divine guidance.  But his popularity really caught on there thanks to Oengus mac Fergusa, king of the Picts, who on the eve of a battle against the Angles in 832 A.D. is said to have made a vow of allegiance to Saint Andrew if he led his troops to victory.  And the next morning, when the clouds above the battlefield seemed to form an X-shape, he took it as a sign that he had the support of Saint Andrew.  When Oengus won the skirmish, despite having a force smaller than his opponents, he made good on his word.  Saint Andrew was named the Patron Saint of Scotland and a blue flag adorned with a white X resemblent of the sky that morning was later created, and it remains the national flag of Scotland to this day.

It's a safe bet that there will be plenty of bagpipes on hand to life the spirits at St. Andrew's Day festivities all over Scotland.  In fact, when the events were kicked off by the First Minister, the head of the government, at Edinburgh Castle on Friday, the Red Hot Chili Pipers provided the music.  These unique instruments certainly help give Scotland a sound all its own that's recognizable worldwide.  St. Andrews Day is actually the beginning of the Scottish Winter Festivals, which will continue all the way until January 25th, when Burns Night brings them to a close.  During this time, over 60 events will be held across over the nation, and some historic sites will be free of admission.  But as far as I can tell, in Scotland, the St. Andrews day celebrations tend to be fairly typical and tame.  That's certainly not the case throughout the rest of the world.  For some reason, in Germany, Austria, and parts of Eastern Europe, a belief has developed that the night before St. Andrew's Day is one of the best times for a young woman to find out who her future husband will be.  All sorts of unusual traditions are held to determine his identity - they might write the names of potential suitors on pieces of paper and put them under their pillow - the first one they pull out in the morning is their future husband.Or they might put the papers in dough and see which one rises to the top when baked.  Some light Easter candles and bring them to a fountain at midnight, hoping St. Andrew will let them glimpse the man they will marry in the waters.  To determine his profession, they might drop hot lead or wax into water to see what shapes form.  And if they drop a clog behind their shoulder and it lands pointing to the door, it's said to be a sign that they will marry that year.  But parts of Austria practice the most unusual ritual - there, the young women unclothe themselves, drink wine, and kick a straw bed while performing a spell to attract their future husbands.  That sure makes online dating sound a lot less complicated.  I have to wonder how these unusual festivities have sprung up over the years, but I guess they're just another facet of St. Andrews Day.  And no matter where the revelers may be tomorrow or how they observe it, I hope this particular holiday is the start of something great for them, be it a new chapter of their lives or a lively season of celebration.

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