St. Andrew's Day

Fast Facts: St. Andrew's Day
Faith(s) Christianity

St. Andrew's Day is a Christian holiday celebrated on November 30. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and the festival plays a similar role as St. Patrick's Day for Ireland — it is a day for celebrating Scottish culture.

Saint Andrew was the brother of Saint Peter and is regarded as the first of the twelve apostles. Like Peter, Andrew was a fisherman from Bethsaida in Galilee. Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist who had followed Jesus on John's recommendation. According to a New Testament account: Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah." And he brought him to Jesus. (John 1:40-42) According to tradition, St. Andrew conducted missionary work around the Black Sea. His death is generally dated to 60, or perhaps 70, AD. No earlier than the 10th century, St. Andrew's cross came to be described as X-shaped. Both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches recognize St. Andrew's feast day (the traditional day of his martyrdom) on November 30.

The Relics of Saint Andrew

Like most important saints, Andrew was not left in his tomb to rest in peace. According to St. Jerome, Andrew's remains were taken from Patras to Constantinople in the fourth century by order of the Roman emperor Constantine an, according to tradition, a few body parts were taken by St. Rule to Scotland before they made it to Constantinople. These relics were held in St. Andrew's Cathedral, but were likely destroyed in the Scottish Reformation. In 1208, St. Andrew's remains were moved from Constantinople to the Church of Sant' Andrea in Amalfi, Italy. In the 15th century, Andrew's head was brought to St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

In 1879, the Archbishop of Amalfi sent Andrew's shoulder blade to the reestablished Catholic community in Scotland. In September 1964, Pope Paul VI returned Andrew's head to Patras as a gesture of goodwill to the Christians in Greece. In 1969, when Gordon Gray was in Rome to be appointed the first Scottish Cardinal since the Reformation, he was given some relics of St. Andrew with the words, "Saint Peter gives you his brother." These are now displayed in a reliquary in St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh.

Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Russia and Scotland, as well as fishermen, singers, unmarried women, and would-be mothers.

Saint Andrew and Scotland

There are a variety of explanations as to how St. Andrew came to be associated with Scotland. According to the most traditional tale, when Constantine ordered Andrew's relics to be moved to Constantinople, an angel appeared to St. Rule (or Regulus) in a dream and told him to take some of the relics to the ends of the earth for safekeeping. He obediently took a tooth, an arm bone, a kneecap and some fingers from Andrew's tomb and sailed north with the remains until he was shipwrecked on the east coast of Scotland. There he established the city of St. Andrew's, and the relics were placed in a specially constructed chapel.

In 1160, the chapel was replaced by St. Andrew's Cathedral, which became an important medieval pilgrimage destination. Much of the cathedral is in ruins today, but "St. Rule's Tower" is one of the buildings that remains. As noted above, St. Andrew's relics were probably destroyed during the Scottish Reformation, but a plaque among the ruins of the cathedral shows modern visitors where the relics were kept.

One of the earliest times St. Andrew was recognized as the patron saint of Scotland was at the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320. Signed by Robert the Bruce and other Scottish noblemen, the Declaration asserted Scotland's independence from England.

According to legend, however, St. Andrew became the patron saint of Scotland much earlier, in 832 AD. In a story that resembles the famous tale of Emperor Constantine and the Chi Rho, it is said that an army of Scots was facing an English army when the Scottish king prayed to St. Andrew for help. Seeing a cloud in the shape of the saltire (X-shaped) cross against a clear blue sky, the king vowed that if the Scots were victorious, St. Andrew would be made the patron saint of Scotland. The Scots won the battle, the king fulfilled his promise, and the intervention of St. Andrew has been represented on the Scottish flag ever since.

St. Andrew's Day Customs and Observances

St. Andrew's Day is celebrated on November 30th each year, the traditional date of St. Andrew's martyrdom in Greece. The holiday is important for all liturgical Christians, as the beginning of Advent is set at the Sunday closest to St. Andrew's Day.

Among Scots, especially those who are away from their homeland, November 30 is a day for celebrating the best of Scottish culture and cuisine. As one would expect, the focal point of St. Andrew's Day in Scotland is the city of St. Andrews in Fife, which is about an hour north of Edinburgh. There, throughout "St. Andrew's Week," one can attend traditional music concerts, special church services, porridge-making contests, piping contests and ceilidhs, watch fireworks, and visit places that are not normally open to the public, like the Masonic Lodge and the private areas of the famous Royal and Ancient Golf Course. Elsewhere in Scotland, many schools hold a special assembly focusing on the patron saint and Scotland, special events are held at landmarks like the Edinburgh Castle, and friends gather for ceilidhs, haggis suppers, whisky drinking, or other celebrations of Scottish heritage.

However, the popularity of St. Andrew's Day in Scotland is a relatively recent and still-growing development. This is only the ninth year of St. Andrew's Week, and November 30 is not a national holiday. In 2001, Scotch whisky manufacturer Famous Grouse conducted a survey throughout Scotland that showed only 22 percent of Scots knew when St. Andrew's Day is celebrated. By contrast, 64 percent knew that Burns' night (in honor of Scottish poet Robert Burns) is held on January 25.

While some view the lack of emphasis on Scotland's patron saint as appropriate, given the Catholic connections of saints' days (the Church of Scotland is Presbyterian) and the increasing focus on a global rather than nationalistic outlook, some Scots have been campaigning to give St. Andrew's Day a higher profile. Scottish Parliament Member Donald Gorrie, for instance, has been working towards making it a national holiday for years. In 2002, he wrote:

St Andrew has been Scotland’s Patron Saint and his cross has been our flag for perhaps 1,000 years. While his flag is universally used, the man and his day are neglected.

Former Scottish ruby captain Gavin Hastings agrees, saying in 2002, "We deserve to give ourselves the opportunity to shout about the things we’ve given the world."

Books on St. Andrew's Day

  • Rennie Mcowen, Saint Andrew for Beginners (St. Andrew Press, 1996). .
  • Sheila Macrae, Traditional Scottish Cookery. Foulsham, 2001.
  • Michael Turnbill, T. R. B, Saint Andrew: Scotland's Myth and Identity (Saint Andrew Press, 1997). Looks at the history of St. Andrew and what he has meant to Scots at home and abroad.
  • Colin Waters, A Dictionary of Saints Days, Fasts, Feasts and Festivals (Countryside Books, 2004).


  • "St. Andrew and St. Andrew's Day fact sheet ." Edinburgh City Council.
  • "Andrew, St." Bowker, John, ed., Oxford Concise Dictionary of World Religions (Oxford UP, 2000), p. 38.
  • Macrory, J. "St. Andrew." Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. 1907.
  • "Andrew, Saint." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2004. Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service.
  • "Saint Andrew the Apostle." Patron Saints Index. 2004.
  • "Saint Andrew." Gateway to Scotland, University of Edinburgh Department of Geography, 2004.
  • "St. Andrew's Week 2004." Official Site of Scotland's National Tourist Board.
  • "Flying the Flag for Stuff of Legends." The Scotsman Evening News, Nov. 20, 2004.
  • "St. Andrew's Day - When's That?" The Scotsman, November 26, 2001.
  • Claire Gardner, "Patron Saint set to join Christmas celebrations." Scotland on Sunday, September 22, 2002.

Article Info

Title St. Andrew's Day
Last UpdatedJanuary 29, 2021
MLA Citation “St. Andrew's Day.” 29 Jan. 2021. Web. Accessed 28 Oct. 2021. <>