Hear the Kirkin O’ the Tartans!
Sound the pipes! Heat up the pies!
Celebrate St. Andrew’s Feast Day!
Clear the dance floor!
6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 101 Riverside Avenue, Ben Lomond, California($10/person, $25/family) Benefiting Valley Churches United
St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, so it seems appropriate that St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church should be located in Ben Lomond, CA , where Scots were among the first settlers, landowners and shopkeepers.
The unincorporated town and the church are located in the valley of the San Lorenzo River, not to be confused with the nearby community of Scotts Valley (two Ts) which was named after Hiram Scott, who bought town in 1850. St. Andrew’s church was constructed of local redwood in 1899 and consecrated as an Episcopal Church in 1901, where it has held Anglican services and served the San Lorenzo Valley ever since.
Also in 1850, Thomas Bums, a loyal and probably nostalgic Scot, settled on top of a 3,000-foot mountain overlooking the San Lorenzo River, with the idea of growing grapes and making wine. He named his mountain Ben Lomond, for the historic mountain in southwestern Scotland, the land of his birth.
The need for redwood timber to build fast-growing San Francisco was stripping the forest resources of Oakland, and eyes turned south to the virgin forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The lumberjacks sent their logs down the river to the railroad junction in Felton, and lived in new towns near the saw mills, in Boulder Creek, and on a tract laid out at the foot of Ben Lomond Mountain on the river. Mill owners wanted to call this tract Pacific Mills, but the U.S. Post Office objected to naming a town after a business, and he settled on Ben Lomond, after the mountain.
Nearly 80 years later, when the city of San Cruz dammed a creek in the valley to create a reservoir for fresh drinking water, it was named Loch Lomond, after the largest lake in Scotland. City officials even flew to Scotland to carry back a cup of water from that lake to christen the California version of Loch Lomond.
The Scottish immigrants in the mountains who were part of the new Golden State’s first population boom had begun adding Scottish names to maps well before the founding of Ben Lomond. Along the coastal highway at what is now La Selva Beach they named a community Rob Roy, after the Scottish folk hero. Over the ridge from Ben Lomond, the town of Bonny Doon was developed. Scottish heroes also provided street names – Wallace, Monroe and McDonald –in Santa Cruz.
When Santa Cruz County developed a public park along the river south of Ben Lomond, it was named, appropriately, Highlands Park. Earlier in the century, a river resort named Rowardennan attracted visitors from San Francisco.
So it is fitting that parishioners at St. Andrew’s should celebrate the feast day for the patron saint of Scotland, and also fitting that they should have a “Kirkin of the Tartans” ceremony at the church.
Because the Nov. 30 date of St. Andrew’s Feast Day (a national holiday in Scotland) sometimes conflicts with the weekend after the American Thanksgiving holiday, the Ben Lomond church has developed a tradition of having its St. Andrew’s Feast Day on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and of joining it with a “kirkin” (blessing in Scottish Gaelic) of the tartans ceremony and church service.
Parishioners, community members, families and friends bring a representative piece of plaid fabric that is the “flag” of an ancestral Scottish clan – in the form of a swatch, a blanket, jacket or kilt – to be blessed. There are bagpipes, blessings, Scottish dancers and traditional foods.
The origins of the ceremony began in 1745, when the Scottish Jacobite rebellion was defeated by the Hanoverian English government. Thirty years before the English found themselves battling American colonists, they put down this Scottish rebellion, and they tried to keep Scottish nationalism under wraps by banning in 1746 the playing of bagpipes, the bearing of arms, the wearing of kilts and the display of any tartans of the Scottish clans. In the decades when these bans were enforced, the Scots would secretly wear tartans under their clothing when they went to church. Thus, when the minister ended the worship service with the benediction, that tartan was secretly blessed and God’s favor was bestowed upon the Scottish people.
The open “kirkin”ceremony began nearly 200 years later. In 1941, as the war in Europe was escalating, former Saint Andrew’s Society president and famous American religious leader Dr. Peter Marshall initiated the Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan in this country as a fundraiser for British war relief in conjunction with the St. Andrew’s Society of Washington, D.C. For the first decade the service was held at the capital’s New York Avenue Presbyterian Church.
The Episcopal Church – former nemesis of Scotland (when it was Roman Catholic in the 16th century and later with the emergence of the Presbyterian movement) – ironically became the site of a the U.S. national kirkin in 1952, when the Washington ceremony was moved to the Washington National Cathedral, an Episcopal church. The service has been held every May in every year since, and raises money for scholarships for Scottish students.
The Ben Lomond ceremony raises money for the holiday relief efforts of Valley Churches United.
Of course, we must mention golf, since the church shares a name with the most famous, and oldest golf course in the world. The annual St. Andrew’s (CA) golf tournament is held every spring in Scotts Valley.
St. Andrew footnotes:
St. Andrew is one of the original 12 disciples of Jesus, the brother of Simon Peter, and a follower of John the Baptist before becoming an apostle. He is said to have preached in Asia Minor and Greece and to have been crucified in Greece.
Although most commonly associated with Scotland, Saint Andrew is also the patron saint of Greece, Russian and Romania. In Germany, the St. Andrew’s Feast Day is celebrated as Andreasnacht (“St. Andrew’s Night”), in Austria with the custom of Andreasgebet (“St. Andrew’s Prayer”), and in Poland as Andrzejki (“Andrews”). The cross on which St. Andrew was crucified by Roman Emperor Nero has been adopted as the national flag of Scotland, and later incorporated into the British Union Jack.
There other traditions associated with the feast day, probably pagan in origin.
In parts of Germany, Austria, the Slovakia, Poland and Romania, superstitious belief exists that the night before St. Andrew’s Day is specially suitable for magic that reveals a young woman’s future husband or that binds a future husband to her. Many related customs developed around this: for example, the pouring of hot lead into water (in Poland, one usually pours hot wax from a candle through a key hole into cold water), divining the future husband’s profession from the shape of the resulting piece In some areas in Austria, young women would drink wine and then perform a spell while nude and kicking a straw bed. This was supposed to magically attract the future husband. Yet another custom is to throw a clog over one’s shoulder: if it lands pointing to the door, the woman will get married in the same year.
In some parts of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, young women would write down the names of potential husbands on little pieces of paper and stick these into little pieces of dough. When cooked, the first one to float to the surface of the water would reveal the name of a girl’s future husband.
In Romania, it is customary for young women to put 41 grains of wheat beneath their pillow before they go to sleep on the eve of St. Andrew’s Feast Day, and if they dream that someone is coming to steal their grains that means that they are going to get married next year.