The arrival of Saint Andrew, celebrating Saint Andrew of the Apostle, is fast approaching in Scotland for 2021.
Falling on November 30 each year, St. Andrew’s Day sees Scots commemorating a patron saint immortalized at the heart of Scottish heritage and culture – with St. Andrew’s presence felt in everything from the Scottish saltire flag to the University of St Andrew.
But the apostle’s roots in Galilee and patronage in countries around the world still cause much confusion about Saint Andrew’s ties to Scotland.
The other countries which have adopted Saint Andrew as patron saint
Here’s who St. Andrew is, why we celebrate St. Andrew’s Day in Scotland – and whether St. Andrew’s Day is a public holiday.
Who is Saint André?
Known as Andrew of the Apostle, Saint Andrew is believed to have been born in Galilee, Israel, between AD 5-10 while under the domain of the Roman Empire.
According to the New Testament of the Bible, Andrew and his brother Simon Peter (Saint Peter) worked as fishermen before receiving a call from Jesus to become two of his 12 apostles or disciples.
The Gospel according to John quotes Andrew as having been initially called as a disciple of John the Baptist before joining Jesus.
Andrew is among many New Testament accounts and writings about Jesus and his disciples as one of the most important apostles after Jesus and embarking on missions.
Andrew’s crucifixion on a diagonal X-shaped cross is the origin of the saltire cross, also known as the cross of St. Andrew, with his death at the hands of the Romans in Greece on the supposed date of November 30, 60 AD.
It is believed that this symbol of the martyrdom of Saint Andrew was not fully established until the Middle Ages.
Why do we celebrate St. Andrew’s Day in Scotland?
St. Andrew’s Day is celebrated on November 30 each year in Scotland for several reasons, none of which are fully confirmed.
According to St Rule’s Voyage legend, Saint Andrew’s ties to Scotland were cemented by the perilous flight of St Rule (Bishop of Patras, Greece) to the Scottish east coast with the relics of the bones of Saint Andrew, the depositing in Fife.
Picte King Angus of Scotland built a monastery in St Andrews as a tribute to the saint – who then led him to victory in battle against the Saxons after appearing to King Angus in a dream.
There are variations of this story, with some stating that King Angus received a message from Saint Andrew that on the morning of battle he would meet a cross in the sky helping him triumph over the Saxons.
Another belief is that King Angus prayed to Saint Andrew, promising him the patronage of Scotland as the country’s patron saint if he would help him achieve victory.
Either way, the story ends with King Angus receiving a saltire in the blinding sunlight on the morning of the battle, with that confidence in the Picts’ army as they won the battle against the Saxons. .
The saltire cross of Saint Andrew has been entrenched in Scottish national symbolism ever since, but it was not properly established as Scotland’s patron saint until 1320 with the declaration of Arbroath.
King Robert the Bruce and the Scottish Barons sought to appeal to Pope John XXI for recognition of Scottish independence and the right to be protected from the claims of English kings to Scottish property by having Saint Andrew as patron saint of Scotland as brother of Saint Peter, responsible for laying the foundations of the Church.
What happened to the bones of Saint-André?
With Saint Andrew himself widely known to have never been in Scotland – at least not alive – his remains would likely have been buried in Patras after his death and remained there until AD 357.
The legend of the Voyage of St Rule claims that St Rule fled Greece with the bones of Saint Andrew after the Emperor Constantine of Constantinople ordered their transfer to Constantinople and brought them to safety in Kilrymont.
But St.Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh, where the relics of St.Andrew are today, says on its website that it’s more likely that Patras brought the bones of St.Andrew to the Diocese of St. Augustine in Hexham, England.
From there, the bones of St. Andrew were reportedly brought to Scotland by Bishop Acca, who fled to Scotland to find asylum with King Angus and the Picts, in 732 AD.
The Duomo di Sant’Andrea in Amalfi, Italy, and St. Andrew’s Basilica in Patras, Greece, hold other relics of the Scottish, Russian, Polish and Greek patron saint, with countries around the world celebrating him as well as its legend through the societies of Saint-André.
Is St. Andrew’s Day a public holiday in Scotland?
While St. Andrew’s Day has been celebrated as a Scottish public holiday only to be celebrated as a feast day since 2006, it is generally not a day that Scots can enjoy as school or work holidays.
Employers don’t have to give people a day off and the banks in Scotland aren’t closing either.
The Saint-André in 2021 will fall on Tuesday, November 30.