Surrounding St Andrew’s Day


Today 30th of November,let’s celebrate with our calendar. I could you tell you stop reading magazines, watching video and going  to the movies, instead let’s celebrate Saint Andrew Day. It bring harmony and rhythm to our day. Lovely the last November day. Read this short story of Saint Andrew of Scotland and learn about his life. Girls should kick a straw mattress in the nude to attract a future husband, and pour molten wax into water to see what the future holds.

'London Rothschild Hours' ('Hours of Joanna I of Castile'), Ghent ca. 1500 (British Library, Add 35313, fol. 16v)

‘London Rothschild Hours’ (‘Hours of Joanna I of Castile’), Ghent ca. 1500 (British Library, Add 35313, fol. 16v)

 St Andrew’s Day, the 30th of November, is marked by celebrations around the globe.


Christmas market in Glasgow 2014

In the Burgundy region of France, where St Andrew is the local patron saint, many villages hold celebrations of his feast day, and his status as patron saint of fishermen means that his feast is observed in fishing villages as well. Germany and Austria have their own traditions and folklore surrounding St Andrew’s Day, or as it is known to locals. Arriving as it does so near to, and some years coinciding with, the start of Advent (the first Sunday following the 26th of November), St Andrew’s Day marks the opening of traditional German Christmas markets.


Christmas market in Glasgow

Saint Andrew was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples– Andrew, is honoured in church prayers, pubs and even a bank holiday, depending on where you go, however it  is most famously the patron saint of Scotland. His feast day November 30th is also Scotland’s official national day.


National Flag of Scotland – The “Saltire” or “Saint Andrew’s Cross” dates to the Battle of Athelstaneford in 832 AD.

Although most commonly associated with Scotland, Saint Andrew is also the patron saint of Greece, Romania, Russia and Constantinople.


Saint Andrew


In Poland  is celebrated as  Andrzejki. In Germany and Austria, the Saint’s          feast day is celebrated as Andreasnacht or Andr(St. Andrew’s Night). Saint  Andrew among his many responsibilities, is the patron Saint of unmarried  women and so Saint Andre Day night (from 29 to 30 November) is regarded as  a time when young girls and unmarried women perform the various folkloric  rituals to reveal the identity of their future husband. Pouring molten wax into  water is meant to reveal the shape of a girls future in the shape off the wax.  Alternatively kicking a straw bed in the nude, while reciting the St Andrew’s  Prayer is supposed to magically attract the future husband. Another custom is  to throw a clog over the shoulder – if it lands pointing to the door, the girl will  get married in the same year.

Why this day is associated more with magic than religion? The reason is quite  simple: With the advent of Christianity, churches adopted some elements of cult  and folk tradition to coerce pagans into the new religion. celebrating the sun  fading away at the end of autumn. The goal is simple though: to find out who’ll  be your husband.

St. Andrew night was celebrated since the turn of XVI and XVII centuries. Let me describe the rituals that I remember from my childhood below:


Pouring hot melted wax (in the past also melted tin or lead) through a key into a bowl of cold water – hardened wax is held up to the light and the future is guessed from its shadow cast on the wall. The lights are usually off (except the light of the candle). It not only helps to read from the shadow but also helps to keep an unusual atmosphere of this evening. The shape of the shadow is observed from different angles and the future of the girl (especially her marital future is guessed from it). In the past not a usual key was used to this ritual but a key from door in the church was the best.

Preparing pieces of paper with male first names on the edges of the bowl – the bowl is filled with water with a candle floating in the middle of the bowl. The first burn paper piece indicates the name of the future husband. Another ritual – three cups flipped upside down to cover marriage ring, small cross and a piece of green plant – girls are choosing one cup and it indicate their future fate- the ring of course signify the marriage, cross – life as a nun in monastery and the green plant is predicting the unmarried life. When the dusk came you should listen to the dog bark – from this direction the future husband will come. One more custom was to toss the shoes – shoes of all the girls are arranged one after another along the wall and moved gradually in the same order to the door. The girl whose shoe would first cross the doorstep would be married first. Maids were also predicting their future from cherry twig – if the cherry branch blossomed until Christmas it would suggest marriage soon. If it blossomed after Christmas a girl had to wait for marriage longer. If it did not blossom but dried out – it predicted the spinsterhood. Some believe that one should check in the calendar the name of the patron in the day when the cherry blossomed – this name could be the name of the future husband.

The other belief – try to remember your dream at St. Andrew night – if you would see a man in a dream – this might be your future husband; or look at the water reflection in well or in the mirror at midnight to see his face.

Paris, BnF, Français 95, fol. 113v

Paris, BnF, Français 95, fol. 113v

St Andrew’s Day, however, is best known as a celebration of Scottish culture. Since 2006, it has been officially recognized as a national holiday in Scotland, so wherever you are, whether you’re enjoying  and to find a way to celebrate Scotland’s national day.


In the fascinating legend of The Voyage of St Rule from Greece to Scotland we can see the complicated spread of devotion to Saint Andrew – from Constantinople in modern Turkey, to St Andrews in Fife. St Rule (Regulus in Latin) and the six nuns and monks who took the long sea-journey with him, stands for the missionaries and monasteries who worked long and hard to bring the Good News to Britain. They lived in communities organised by a monastic Rule – hence the name St Rule or Regulus.


Woodcut of the martyrdom of St Andrew from a Sarum Missal printed in Paris in 1534

As Scotland slowly became a nation it needed a national symbol to rally round and motivate the country. Saint Andrew was an inspired choice and Scots modeled themselves on Saint Andrew and on one of his strong supporters, the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, whose statue you can see today in York, where the he visited his father, a Roman General then trying to force the Picts to go back north. Although a pagan who worshiped the Roman sun god Sol, Constantine later became a Christian and went on to make Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. It all began near Rome in 312 AD when, on the night of a make-or-break battle against a rival emperor, he saw the symbol X P (Greek for the first two letters of ‘Christ’) in the dazzling light of the setting sun and then had a dream in which he was promised victory. Constantine ordered his troops to hold the Christian cross at the front of the army, and won. In a similar way, around 500 years later, King Angus of the Picts, facing a larger army of Saxons at Athelstaneford in what is now East Lothian in Scotland, was overwhelmed by a blinding light the night before the battle and, during the night, had a dream. The message he was given was that he would see a Cross in the sky and would conquer his enemies in its name. The following morning King Angus looked into the rising sun and saw the Saltire Cross in its blinding light. This filled him and his men with great confidence and they were victorious. From that time Saint Andrew and his were adopted as the national symbols for an emerging Scotland. The Saltire Cross became the heraldic arms that every Scot is entitled to fly and wear. However, its colour was not white at first but silver (Argent), as in heraldry white stands for silver.


Robert II of Scotland

The first time the colour of the Saltire is mentioned is in the Acts of Parliament of King  Robert II in July 1385 where every Scottish soldier was ordered to wear a white Saltire. If the  uniform was white, then the Saltire was to be stitched onto a black background. Both William  Wallace and King Robert the Bruce appealed to Saint Andrew to guide them in times of  national emergency. The Saltire was flown on Scottish ships and used as the logo of Scottish  banks, on Scottish coins and seals and displayed at the funerals of Scottish kings and queens –  that of King James VI for example and of his mother, Mary Queen of Scots.

At the Union of the Crowns in 1603, London was treated to the spectacle of Saint Andrew  and Saint George on horseback, shaking hands in friendship. When King George IV visited  Edinburgh in 1822 he was presented with a Saltire Cross made of pearls on velvet, within a  circle of gold. There is also a wider dimension. Saint Andrew and his relics at St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Edinburgh provides Scots with a special link to Amalfi in Italy and Patras in Greece (where two Cathedrals named after the saint also hold his relics). The many St Andrew Societies worldwide, set up originally as self-help organisations for Scots who had fallen on hard times, form a network of Scots who are all united under the Saltire Cross of Saint Andrew. They give Scotland a European and worldwide dimension.

Ten fascinating facts about Saint Andrew, Scotland’s patron saint:

4 andrzej

  • Andrew was a Galilean fisherman working in the Black Sea before he and his brother Simon Peter became disciples of Jesus Christ.


    The crucifixion of St Andrew in the Queen Mary Psalter: England, 14th century (London, British Library, MS Royal 2 B VII, f. 286r)

  • He was crucified by the Romans on an X-shaped cross at Patras in Greece and, hundreds of years later, his remains were moved to Constantinople and then, in the 13th century, to Amalfi in southern Italy where they are kept to this day.

The crucifixion of St Andrew, in Wauchier de Denain, Lives of the Saints: France, 13th century (London, British Library, MS Royal 20 D VI, f. 185r). – See more at:

Legend has it that a Greek monk known as St Rule or St Regulus was ordered in a vision to take a few relics of Andrew to the ‘ends of the earth’ for safe keeping. He set off on a sea journey to eventually come ashore on the coast of Fife at a settlement which is now the modern town of St Andrews.

  • In 832 AD Andrew is said to have appeared in a vision to a Pictish king the night before a battle against the Northumbrians in what is now the village of Athelstaneford in East Lothian. On the day of the battle a Saltire, an X-shaped cross, appeared in the sky above the battlefield and the Picts were victorious.
  • The Saltire, or Saint Andrew’s Cross, was subsequently adopted as the national emblem and flag of the Scots.
  • Andrew was first recognised as an official patron saint of Scotland in 1320 at the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath an appeal to the Pope by Scottish noblemen asserting Scotland’s independence from England.

St Andrew reliquary.

  •  The presence of Andrew’s relics in Scotland – a tooth, a kneecap, arm and finger bones – meant that St Andrews became a popular medieval pilgrimage site although they were destroyed in the 16th century during the Scottish Reformation.
  • In 1879 the Archbishop of Amalfi gifted Andrew’s shoulder blade to St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh. Pope Paul VI donated further relics in 1969.
  • Andrew is also the patron saint of Greece, Russia, Romania, and Barbados.  Remnants of the cross he was crucified on remain in the St Andrew’s Cathedral Patras in Greece.  Saint Andrew was the first bishop there and then crucified by the Romans.

St Andrew’s Cathedral Patras in Greece

  •  His patronage extends to fishmongers, gout, singers, sore throats, spinsters, maidens, old maids and women wishing to become mothers.

 Be Glad, Be  Good , Be Brave

Happy Saint Andrew’s Day


About conservationwithella

Hello, I'm Ella, Art on Paper Conservator & Preservation Manager at Glasgow University Archives and Special Collections. This blog is a walk through my daily life, work, arts & crafts history, my discovery that everything in my life is enough to be a continuous source of reflection. I started blogging to entertain myself but I hope you enjoy it too. I'm sure you agree, that Life without art is nothing. :)

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