Tartan Day is a North American celebration of Scottish heritage on April 6, the date on which the Declaration of Arbroath was signed in 1320. It originated in Canada in the mid-1980s. It spread to other communities of the Scottish diaspora in the 1990s. In Australia the similar International Tartan Day is held on July 1, the anniversary of the repeal of the 1747 Act of Proscription that banned the wearing of tartan.
On March 9, 1986, a 'Tartan Day' to promote Scottish heritage in Canada was proposed at a meeting of the Federation of Scottish Clans in Nova Scotia. Jean Watson, President of Clan Lamont, petitioned provincial legislatures to recognize April 6 as Tartan Day. The first such proclamation was by Nova Scotia in April 1987. On December 19, 1991, in response to action initiated by the Clans & Scottish Societies of Canada, the Ontario Legislature passed a resolution proclaiming April 6 as Tartan Day, following the example of other Canadian provinces.
Meeting in 1997 in Sarasota, Florida, the Scottish Coalition USA looked to see Tartan Day recognized in the US as it was being observed in Canada. In 1998, the efforts of the Scottish Coalition with the leading help of Trent Lott saw the United States Senate Resolution adopt April 6 as National Tartan Day. This led in turn to the Congressional and then Presidential passing of the recognition of Tartan Day Observance on April 6 each year.
In Australia, wearing tartan on July 1 has been encouraged since 1989. The day has been promoted as International Tartan Day in Australia since 1996 and has been formally recognised by many states, but not at national level.
About 15.1% or 4.7 million Canadians claim Scottish descent. As stated above, Tartan Day in Canada originated with a proposal from the Federation of Scottish Clans in Nova Scotia and has since been proclaimed by all the provincial legislatures. In 2007 Peter Stoffer introduced a private member's bill for 'An Act respecting a Tartan Day'. Progress of the bill was interrupted by the 2008 election, but it has been resubmitted.
An annual "Gathering of the Clans" will take place each April 6 or on the Sunday nearest to it on Parliament Hill in Ottawa at noon with pipes, drums and dancing hosted by the Sons of Scotland Pipe Band, Canada's oldest civilian pipe band. The 2011 celebrations marked the first time that Tartan Day has been celebrated with Canada's official tartan having been named: the Maple Leaf.
Angus Council, whose region includes Arbroath, established the first Tartan Day festival in Scotland on April 6, 2004, and has since joined other regional councils in attempting to develop its potential as a global celebration.
Argentina has around 100,000 people of Scottish descent, the largest such community outside the English-speaking world. The Tartan Day parade of Scottish porteños was inaugurated in Buenos Aires on April 6, 2006 and is organised every year by the Scottish Argentine Society. A symbolic key to the gate of Arbroath's Abbey is carried to mark the date in 1320 that inspired this celebration.
Three million Australians are either Scottish or of Scottish descent. International Tartan Day in Australia is celebrated on a local basis in most states on July 1 (or by some community organisations on the nearest Sunday), the anniversary of the Repeal Proclamation of 1782 annulling the Act of Proscription of 1747, which had made wearing tartan an offense punishable with up to seven years' transportation. According to Scottish House secretary Moyna Scotland, the tendency to disguise Scottish associations was mirrored in Australia: 'Scots did what they were told to do when they came to Australia, assimilate and integrate, and they almost disappeared', and consequently one aim of Tartan Day is to help Australians reconnect with their Scottish ancestry. A tartan revival started in 1822, and now many of the Australian States as well as the Commonwealth of Australia itself have their own tartans.
In 1989 the Scottish Australian Heritage Council began to encourage Australians to wear tartan on July 1, when more than half a million Australians gather for a celebration of Scottish heritage, combining nostalgia with Australian citizenship ceremonies, and fund-raising for charitable causes such as drought assistance. Australians without a family tartan are invited to wear the Royal Stewart tartan or the military tartan of the Black Watch. Tartan articles worn on the day include hats, ties and socks. There are many pipe band associations in both Australia and New Zealand, some originating in disbanded Second World War army battalions, and almost 30 heritage events in Australia alone. Some clans, notably the McLeods of South Australia, come together in private events to honour their chief, recite Burns, consume haggis and take part in Highland dancing. A butcher in Maclean, New South Wales, 'the Scottish town in Australia', reportedly celebrates the day by selling haggisburgers.
Since 2001 the Scottish Australian Heritage Council and Australian branch of the Scottish National Party have petitioned Canberra for federal recognition of International Tartan Day to celebrate the Scottish contribution to Australian history, including the influence of Scottish radicalism on the trade union movement and the Labor Party, and Australia's allegedly 'egalitarian and meritocratic' society. In 2008 Scottish culture minister Linda Fabiani floated a proposal to expand the Australian event into an official Scotland Week as part of the Scottish government's international business strategy.
United States of America
There are an estimated 6 million people in the US who claim Scottish descent. Little was done to follow up the New York event in 1982. In 1998, a Coalition of Scottish Americans with the support of Senator Trent Lott successfully lobbied the Senate for the designation of April 6 as National Tartan Day "to recognize the outstanding achievements and contributions made by Scottish Americans to the United States". Senate Resolution 155, passed on March 20, 1998, referred to the predominance of Scots among the Founding Fathers and claimed that the American Declaration of Independence was "modelled on" the Declaration of Arbroath.
On March 9, 2005, the United States House of Representatives unanimously adopted House Resolution 41, which designates April 6 of each year as "National Tartan Day." H.Res.41 Chief Sponsors were Congressmen Mike McIntyre from North Carolina and John Duncan from Tennessee, who are the founding co-chairs of the Friends of Scotland Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Tunes of Glory Parade organised by Magnus Orr and Thomas Grotrian in 2002 included 8,250 pipers and drummers marching through the streets of New York, led by Sir Sean Connery and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
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- "Bring yer pipes, drums and kilts!". Archived from the original on February 27, 2009.