Scottish Traditions for Children

Written by alasdair smith
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Scottish Traditions for Children
The Saltire, or St. Andrew's Flag, is Scotland's national flag. (George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

There are many Scottish traditions suitable for children around the world to enjoy. Scotland has a wealth of traditions that help maintain a link to its rich heritage.

You can educate and inform your children about the history of Scotland by engaging them in activities rooted in the country's varied cultural history and contemporary practices.

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Arrange a Burns Supper

Robert Burns, Scotland's Bard, was born in Ayrshire on Jan. 25 1759 and died in Dumfries in 1796 at just 37 years of age. He wrote in excess of 500 poems and songs in his short life including "Auld Lang Syne." Burns Suppers are held on the 25th of January each year to remember his birth.

A traditional Burns Supper includes cock-a-leekie soup to begin (chicken and leek broth) followed by haggis (a savoury dish made from sheep offal), bashit neeps (mashed swede/turnip) and champit tatties (mashed potato). Cranachan, a dish made with toasted oats, raspberries and whipped cream, is the traditional dessert.

The running order of a Burns Supper is the same the world over and children can easily take on each role. They will learn about the Bard and the history of Scotland, and will enjoy reciting some of Burns' poetry or singing his songs.

One of the most important parts of the supper is when the haggis is brought in to bagpipe music and one of the diners recites the "Address to a Haggis." Children will love the wonderful, often strange words of Burns' ancient Scots dialect. Another important part is the recital of the Selkirk Grace before dining. This is a short, easy recital for younger children to enjoy.

The Appreciation and Toast to the Lassies (young ladies) requires more preparation but this is an opportunity for older children to learn about the Bard and his life and loves. Finally, one lassie will reply to the Toast to the Lassies, thanking the young men for their (hopefully kind) words. The supper finishes with various recitals of Burns' works.

St. Andrew's Day

St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and, although it is not an official holiday, many families celebrate St. Andrew's Day privately. It is an opportunity for children to discover the role of St. Andrew in Scotland.

Children can be encouraged to learn about St. Andrew and how he became a saint. Scotland's national flag "The Saltire" is also called the St Andrew's flag. Your children can find out how it got this name.

St. Andrews is also a popular coastal town in Fife on the east coast of Scotland famous for golf, its university and for its role during the Reformation. Your children can research the town of St. Andrews to find out more about its history and place in Scottish tradition.

Scottish Food and Drink

Scotland's food and drink is well known, and much of it is easy and cheap to make. Get a good recipe for shortbread or try making porridge (oatmeal). Both are ideal activities for supervised children.

For a fun research activity, challenge your children to find out what fruit and vegetables are commonly grown in Scotland. For example there is a tradition in rural communities of "tattie howking" in October. This is when the potatoes (tatties) needed harvesting (howking) and schools throughout the country were closed to allow children to help. Even in modern Scotland the traditional week's holiday in October is know as the "tattie week."

Scottish Family History

Genealogy is more popular than ever. If you are tracking down your Scottish ancestry to draw up your family tree, make sure to involve your children. They will be delighted to see your tree grow as you get further into your family history.

You can make it a fun learning exercise by getting your kids to find the places where your ancestors came from in an atlas or online. Challenge your children to find out about where your ancestors came from and what life was like for people there at that time.

New Year Celebrations -- Hogmanay

Scotland is famous for its New Year's Eve (Hogmanay) celebrations. Scotland's capital city Edinburgh is reputed to host one of the best Hogmanay celebrations in the world. If you can't be there you can still enjoy the Scottish tradition of "first-footing." First-footing is where you aim to be the first person to cross the household threshold in the New Year.

Traditionally the luckiest "first-foot" is a tall, dark, handsome man. Women and redheads are considered bad luck. First-foots also brought good-luck gifts including: coal for the fire so there will always be warmth; and shortbread so that the household will never go hungry.

Another Hogmanay tradition to involve children will appeal to moms. Cleaning the house is considered essential to ensure that you approach the new year with everything fresh and clean.

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