Tartan Day first originated in Canada after the president of Clan Lamont proposed that there should be a day where Scottish heritage could be widely celebrated, and so it was decided that April 6 would be national Tartan Day. This holiday was not recognised in the USA until 1998 after the Scottish Coalition brought it to the attention of the president. Tartan Day has been celebrated in the USA every year since. The most popular celebration is the parade that is held in New York every year, with people travelling from all over the world to attend. The parade has become so popular that it has grown into a week of Scottish celebrations, which is known as Tartan Week.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Tartan Week and to commemorate this celebration KT Tunstall has been chosen to be the first female Grand Marshal to lead the parade. This decision is very fitting considering the growing conversation of gender equality that is currently happening all around the world. Tunstall is originally from St Andrews and has been performing for over twenty years now, when speaking to the Tartan Week committee she said “I’m always happy to celebrate my roots as a Scottish musician, and I’ve never felt more empowered in my own career than I do now”. Over the years there have been a range of Scottish personalities who have had the privilege of the Grand Marshal title including Kevin McKidd, Sir Sean Connery and Sam Heughan to name a few.
Wednesday 4th April is the official start of the celebrations with a John Muir exhibition which continues throughout April, other events on throughout the week include a Scottish Ceilidh dance workshop, Cocktail Party, afternoon tea and book signing with Scottish Author Sarah Fraser, Pre-Parade Ceilidh, Kirkin O’ The Tartan and many other family friendly activities. Each event is held by various Scottish charities and societies, hoping to give participants a true representation of Scottish culture and honour the special friendship that the USA has with Scotland.
4,000 marchers, including Highland dancers and pipe bands, along with 3 Celtic dog packs named the Tartan Terriers, the Hebridian Hunting Hounds and the Highland Herders will all take to the streets of New York on Saturday 7th April for the official Tartan Day Parade. Last year the parade drew in 30,000 spectators, that number is expected to grow again this year, it is free to watch the parade so if you are in New York it is an event you just can’t miss.
In previous years there have been many Scottish school pipe bands that have made the journey to New York to march in the parade, it is an immensely exciting trip for the children and allows them to celebrate their Scottish heritage. Over the past six months Sgoil Lionacleit Pipe Band from the Southern Isles have been fundraising so that they can attend the 2018 Tartan Week. The group was faced with the task of raising £40,000 which was to cover the costs of flights and accommodation for the whole group, with each member also contributing a few hundred pounds each. This target was achieved and then some, as after the initial £40,000 was raised the group received funds from the Western Isles Lifestyle Lottery which they are using to purchase bagpipe cases for the trip. The group is made up of 12 to 17 year old pupils who will be acting as ambassadors for the Western Isles and Gaelic culture.
If you’re feeling tartan inspired after watching the parade on TV, make sure to check out the ScotlandShop website for your Scottish purchase as we have a range of over 500 tartans for you to choose from. If you are part of the parade we would love to hear your stories and see your photos.