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Picture Book
St Andrew's Day


In most Christian countries and for many centuries the last day in November has been observed as the feast day of St Andrew. The Church Calendar begins with Advent (defined as the nearest Sunday to St Andrew’s Day), and it seems fitting that Andrew, the first of Christ’s disciples, should have the distinction of coming first in the Church Year. In Scotland - and wherever else Scots are gathered - November 30th is celebrated as our national day, for St Andrew is Scotland’s patron saint and the St Andrew’s Cross (or Saltire) is Scotland’s flag. But who was St Andrew, and how did he become our patron saint?

The Bible tells us that Andrew, a fisherman from Bethsaida in Galilee, was the ‘first called’ of Christ’s disciples and that he brought his brother Simon Peter to become a follower of Jesus. After the Crucifixion, as tradition relates, Andrew travelled the countries bordering the Black Sea and preached the Gospel in Scythia (as the Ukraine and Southern Russia were anciently known) and in Greece. (For a link between Scythia and the Scots, see the part of the Arbroath Declaration quoted overleaf). His missionary work is still remembered in that part of the world: to this day Andrew is patron saint in Greece, Russia and the Ukraine. It was in Greece, in the city of Patras, that he suffered martyrdom. Possibly because he felt himself unworthy to meet his death on a cross of the same shape as his Lord’s, he was crucified on a diagonal cross.

Part of the tradition is that St Andrew wore blue, and so the white of the wooden cross against the blue of his robes gave us the colours of our national flag. However, there is another legend to explain the white cross on a blue background, a legend which had its birth a long way from Greece, in the village of Athelstaneford in East Lothian.


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