Mark your calendars! April 8 - 10 2016!


Get to Know Your Scottish-American Heritage!

The primary mission of the Missouri Tartan Day Festivities is to educate the public about Scottish-American culture using a variety of performers, skilled artisans, musicians and animal experts. This year, we have an outstanding collection of individuals and groups that will make your visit to our festival enjoyable and educational.

If you would like to participate in the Missouri Tartan Day Festivities with an educational booth or exhibit, please contact Shawn Steadman via our contact page.

Some Scottish Definitions to Enhance Your Tartan Day Experience
Tartan Day:  Tartan Day celebrates the existing and historical links between Scotland and Scottish descendants in North America. In the United States it is estimated that there are 6 million people who claim Scottish descent.  Tartan Day is held on April 6, the anniversary of the date on which the Declaration of Arbroath was created in 1320. Definition from 
Declaration of Arbroath:  The Declaration of Arbroath was a declaration of Scottish Independence,  and set out to confirm Scotland's status as an independent, sovereign state and its use of military action when unjustly attacked. It is in the form of a letter submitted to Pope John XXII, dated 6 April 1320. Sealed by fifty-one magnates and nobles, the letter is the sole survivor of three created at the time. The others were a letter from the King of Scots, King Robert I, and a letter from four Scottish bishops which all presumably made similar points. Definition from
Kilt:  The kilt is an item of traditional Scottish Highland dress. Nowadays most Scotsmen see it as formal dress. It is generally worn only at weddings or other formal occasions, although there are still a few people who wear it daily.
Originally a length of woollen tartan cloth 1.5 m in width and up to 5 m in length. Worn as a cloak, over the left shoulder with a wide belt, this was the 'great kilt', the Feileadh Bhreacain or Feileadh Mor. The great kilt was an untailored draped garment made of  cloth gathered up into pleats by hand and secured by the belt. The age of the great kilt is hotly debated but it certainly existed at the beginning of the 17th century.   
After the unrest of the 18th century, the kilt, along with other features of Gaelic culture became identified with the Jacobites. As a result the Dress Act of 1747 made it illegal to wear the kilt in Scotland; the law was repealed in 1783. An exception was made in the years following 1747 to allow the kilt to be worn in the military -- made to try to increase recruitment into the army and placate the Highlanders at a time when the British government could ill afford another civil war with the Highlands of Scotland.  Definition from
Tartan:  The Tartan describes the distinctive checkered pattern generally worked out in a woven material such as woolen cloth. Each particular pattern is known as a "sett". Such tartan material is a characteristically Scottish product. Historically in each district the local weavers produced a distinctive tartan pattern or sett. Thus members of the same clan probably wore the particular tartan woven and dyed in their neighborhood. The distinctive sett adopted by the chief and his relatives became traditionally the "Clan Tartan." When the statutory ban of Highland Dress was removed in 1702, the wearing of the clan tartan was a matter of pride. Definition from
Bagpipes:  When one thinks of Ireland, its national symbol, the Celtic harp, springs immediately to mind. In the case of Scotland, the same can be said of the Great Highland Bagpipes. Across all continents, more than 200 different varieties of bagpipes are being played today. In every corner of the world where Celtic people have settled, the bagpipes or Piob have been absorbed into and become an important part of the culture.
Over the centuries, as people have migrated from country to country along the major trade routes, the bagpipes made the journey with them. Reed pipes and bagpipes spread across the Middle East, and through Asia via the Silk Road, and then to points ever more distant. In each destination, the instrument took on a different form. Today, most European countries have their own unique type of bagpipes—including France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, Russia and Sweden, among others--and each type of bagpipes has its own distinctive sound. The reed pipe of ancient times underwent a process of evolution that would eventually produce not only the bagpipes, but also the orchestral woodwind known as the oboe, as well as the bombarde of French Brittany.  Definition from
Scottish Animals:  Many of the animals we Americans know and love today have Scottish origins.  The Clydesdale draught horse, made popular by Anheuser-Busch, is a Scottish breed. Popular dog breeds, that many of us have as pets, such as the Scottish Terrier and the Westhighland White Terrier (or Westie), Border Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Shetland Sheep Dog, Collie, Bearded Collie and Border Collie are all Scottish dog breeds.  Rounding out the list are Furry Highland Cattle and sheep, favorites at many Scottish events.

A Brief History: The Kirkin' O' the Tartans
The Kirkin' of the Tartans is a uniquely Scottish-American tradition.  The Ceremony was created by the Rev. Peter Marshall*, on April 27th 1941 at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, Washington D.C.  Dr. Marshall was the chaplain of the US Senate and was trying to instill pride in their homeland among the Scots living in the USA.  The ceremony was later held in Presbyterian churches across the USA.
It did not gain popularity until after the first International Gathering of the Clans in Nova Scotia in 1979.   This Kirkin' service is not limited to Presbyterian churches but is often found in other Protestant services as well as Roman Catholic services.
This ceremony is not known to be held in any church in Scotland.
Basically, the service is to bless the tartans and the families that they represent.  Also part of the service includes "Flowers of the Forest," which is a reading of the names of members who passed away during the previous year.  The service commences with a small pipe band marching down the aisle, following by members, usually  in Scottish attire,  carrying tartans on flag poles.  The service is usually similar to the below:

While each Kirkin’ service has its own particular characteristics, The Capitol Scot web site gives a very “typical” order of worship for a Kirkin’ that was held at the Virginia Highland Games in July, 2005: 

  • Procession to Pipes

  • Hymn, God of Grace and Glory - All

  • Opening Prayer - Chaplain

  • Reading, Proverbs 3:1-6 - Designated Reader #1

  • Hymn Response, My Shepherd Will Supply - All

  • Epistle, 2 Timothy 3:14-17 - Designated Reader #2

  • Hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every blessing - All

  • Gospel, Matthew 9:9-13 - Chaplain

  • Message - Chaplain

  • Prayers - Chaplain

  • The Lord's Prayer - All

  • Kirkin' O' the Tartans - Clan representatives carry lengths (or flags) of tartans forward to the altar rail and the Chaplain says a few words about the Scottish heritage and gives a blessing.

  • Necrology (deceased by organization/clan since the last such event) - Chaplain

  • Flowers of the Forest - Piper

  • Blessing - Chaplain

  • Hymn, O God Our Help in Ages past - All

  • Dismissal by Chaplain and Recession to pipes


So, while not necessarily an ancient Scottish ceremony per se, the Kirkin’, as a Scottish-American ceremony, celebrates not only the family heritage of the descendants of Scottish immigrants to the United States and Canada, but also the friendship of our three nations in peace and war.  

Compiled and written by
David Leslie White,
Chieftain, Clan Leslie Society International

*  Peter Marshall was born in North Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1902.  He migrated to New York in 1927 when he was 24 and graduated from Columbia Theological Seminary in 1931.  He was twice appointed as U.S. Senate Chaplain.  He died suddenly from a heart attack on January 26th, 1949, at the age of 46.  His widow, Catherine, wrote a biography of Peter Marshall, titled "A Man Called Peter," which was later made into a film of the same title.   Peter and Catherine had one son, Peter John Marshall, who also was a Presbyterian minister.  Peter John Marshall was born January 21, 1940 and died September 10, 2010.
Peter Marshall information: Wikipedia
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