Tartan Day festivities April 6 in New York

Sunday, April 3, 2005

Tartan Day in the United States is being kicked off with big celebrations in New York, including parades and marching bands. The Grand Marshall of this year's parade was Randall Wallace, a Scottish-American and author of the screenplay for the movie Braveheart.

Week-long festivities were to include the annual "Tunes of Glory" parades, pipe bands from 3 countries, an exhibition called "Scottish Village", and a fashion show on Wednesday called "Dressed to Kilt". One of Scotland's national treasures, William Wallace's sword, left Scotland for the first time in 700 years and was flown to New York for their Tartan Week celebrations of 2005.

Tartan Day was designated as a holiday by the US Senate, "National Tartan Day", in 1998. Support for the holiday first gathered momentum in Canada through the efforts of Ms. Jean Watson in the 1980s. The purpose of the holiday is to remember the contribution of Scots both at home and abroad, raise the profile of Scotland, and encourage tourism and trade.

The date of April 6 was chosen because the "Declaration of Arbroath, the Scottish Declaration of Independence, was signed on April 6, 1320 and the American Declaration of Independence was modelled on that inspirational document." In Australia and New Zealand, Tartan Day is celebrated on July 1, the anniversary of the repeal of the Act of Proscription in 1782.

President George W. Bush in 2002 wrote a letter to the Scotsman newspaper supporting the annual celebrations, writing, "As you take part in customs that honour the role of Scottish Americans in our history, I join you in celebrating the contributions of these important Americans. This observance renews our appreciation for the diversity and remarkable heritage that unites us all."

In the US House of Representatives on March 9 last month, seven years after the Senate approval, a voice vote was unanimously taken to declare "National Tartan Day" a national holiday.

The number of Americans with Scottish or Scotch-Irish ancestry according to the 2000 US Census is about 9.2 million, comprising 3.2% of the US population.