Scottish Traditions


Scottish boys and girls learn much about their country’s history through the many old traditions still being celebrated in Scotland. One of their most famous traditions is a military “tatoo” performed during a festival held each year on the grounds of Edinburgh Castle where the king of Scotland once lived. (Edinburgh is Scotland’s second largest city and also its capital.)

Parades of troops, dressed in kilts and with Scotland’s St. Andrew’s Cross flag flying in the background, “troop” their regimental colors, march to the music of bagpipes, and reenact ancient battles.

Scottish tradition began about A.D. 1000 with the clan, a group of people with a common ancestry and a common name. A chieftain was selected to be the leader of each clan and there were many feuds and much competition between them. Although the clans today do not have power and authority over their members, the people of Scotland take great pride in their own clan heritage.

Each clan can be identified by a name as well as by its own particular plaid cloth pattern known as a tartan. A traditional Highland costume includes a tartan kilt (knee length pleated skirt). It may also have a plaid (blanketlike cloak fastened at the shoulder with a brooch) worn over the shoulder and a sporran (pouch) that hangs in front of the kilt, and a doublet (jacket) and bonnet (cap). The stockings often repeat the tartan pattern and the brogues (shoes) are cut low. The kilt has become a well-known symbol of each clan.

Another unique feature of Scotland is its music that has been traditionally centered around the bagpipes. This unusual looking high-pitched instrument has a leather bag with five wooden pipes connected to it. The top pipe is called the chanter and has eight open holes to play the melody, and the second pipe is the blowpipe. The three other pipes are called drone pipes and each one plays only a single note.

To play the bagpipe a player holds the bag under one arm and blows air into it through the blowpipe. The player’s arm forces pressure on the bag to move the air out through the four sound pipes. At many Scottish events today the tartan kilt and bagpipe are familiar and popular symbols of Scottish tradition.

[illustration] Illustrated by Jerry Harston