St. Andrew’s Day

This event is celebrated on November 30th. Saint Andrew’s Day, also called the Feast of Saint Andrew or another name I’d not heard before, ‘Andermas’, is the feast day of Andrew the Apostle. It is celebrated each year on 30 November. Saint Andrew is the disciple in the New Testament of the bible who introduced his brother Peter to Jesus, the Messiah. Saint Andrew’s Day marks the beginning of the traditional Advent devotion of the Saint Andrew Christmas ‘Novena’ from the Latin ‘novem’, or nine, this being an ancient tradition of devotional praying in Christianity, consisting of private or public prayers, repeated for nine successive days or weeks. The nine days between the Feast of the Ascension and Pentecost , when the disciples gathered in the upper room and devoted themselves to prayer, is often considered to be the first novena. As you might expect, this date is known by different names in different countries, so here are just a few. It is known in Scotland as Saint Andrew’s Day, but also as ‘Saunt Andra’s Day’ and ‘Là Naomh Anndrais’. It is an official national holiday there and the celebration of Saint Andrew as a national festival among some social strata and locales is thought to originate from the reign of Malcolm III (1058–1093). It was thought that the ritual slaughter of animals associated with Samhain was moved to this date so as to assure enough animals were kept alive for winter, but it is only in more recent times that 30 November has been given national holiday status, although it remains a normal working day. Then in 2006, the Scottish Parliament passed the St. Andrew’s Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Act 2007 which designated the Day as an official bank holiday. If 30 November falls on a weekend, the next Monday is a bank holiday instead. Although it is a ‘bank holiday’, banks are not required to close (and in practice will remain open as normal) and employers are not required to give their employees the day off as a holiday. Likewise, schools remain open. The University of St Andrews traditionally gives the day for all the students as a free holiday, but this is not a binding rule. Saint Andrew’s Day is an official flag day in Scotland. The Scottish Government’s flag-flying regulations state that the flag of Scotland, the Saltire or Saint Andrew’s Cross shall fly on all its buildings with a flagpole. Prior to 2002, the Scottish Government followed the UK Government’s flag days and would fly the Saltire on Saint Andrew’s Day only. The regulations were updated to state that the Union Flag would be removed and replaced by the Saltire on buildings with only one flagpole. The flying of the Union Flag from Edinburgh Castle on all days, including Saint Andrew’s Day, causes anger among some Scottish politicians and Scottish unionists who have argued that the Saltire should fly on 30 November instead. However, the Union Flag is flown by the British Army at the Castle as it is an official British Army flag flying station. In Scotland and many countries with Scottish connections, Saint Andrew’s Day is marked with a celebration of Scottish culture, and with traditional Scottish food and music. In Scotland the day is also seen as the start of a season of Scottish winter festivals encompassing Saint Andrew’s Day, Hogmanay and Burns Night. There are week-long celebrations in the town of St Andrews and in some other Scottish cities.

As to other countries, in Barbados Saint Andrew’s Day is celebrated as the national day of Independence there. As its patron saint, Saint Andrew is celebrated in a number of Barbadian symbols including the cross formation of the Barbadian Coat of Arms, and the former Order of Barbados which styled recipients as Knight or Dame of St Andrew. In Romania, there are a few pre-Christian traditions connected to Saint Andrew’s Day, some of them having their origin in the Roman celebrations of the god Saturn, most famously the Saturnalia. The Dacian New Year took place from 14 November until 7 December; this was considered the interval when time began its course. One of the elements that came from the Roman and Thracian celebrations concerned wolves. During this night, wolves were allowed to eat all the animals they wanted. It is said that they could speak, too, but anyone who heard them would soon die. Early on Saint Andrew’s day, the mothers go into the garden and gather tree branches, especially from apple, pear and cherry trees, and also rosebush branches. They make a bunch of branches for each family member. The one whose bunch blooms by New Year’s Day will be lucky and healthy the next year. The best known tradition connected to this night concerns matrimony and premonitory dreams. Single girls must put under their pillow a sprig or branch of sweet basil. If someone takes the plants in their dreams, that means the girl will marry soon. They can also plant wheat in a dish and water it until New Year’s Day. The nicer the wheat looks that day, the better the year to come. He is a patron saint of Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, San Andres Island,Colombia and Tenerife. But there is more, as in parts of Ukraine, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Poland, Russia and Romania, a superstitious belief exists that the night before Saint Andrew’s Day is especially suitable for magic that reveals a young woman’s future husband or that binds a future husband to her. The day was believed to be the start of the most popular time for vampire activity, which would last until Saint George’s Eve, 22 April. In Poland, the holiday ‘Andrzejki’ is celebrated on the night of the 29th through 30 November. Traditionally, the holiday was only observed by young single girls, though today both young men and women join the party to see their futures. The main ceremony involved pouring hot wax from a candle through the hole in a key into cold water.

Saint Andrew’s Chapel and rocks in Cape Santo André in Póvoa de Varzim, Portugal. In local mythology, Saint Andrew fished the souls of those drowned at sea and helped in fisheries and marriages.

In Romania, it is customary for young women to put 41 grains of wheat beneath their pillow before they go to sleep, and if they dream that someone is coming to steal their grains that means that they are going to get married next year. Also in some other parts of the country the young women light a candle from Easter and bring it, at midnight, to a fountain. They ask Saint Andrew to let them glimpse their future husband. Saint Andrew is invoked to ward off wolves, who are thought to be able to eat any animal they want on this night, and to speak to humans. But a human hearing a wolf speak to him will die. In Póvoa de Varzim, an ancient fishing town in northern Portugal, Cape Santo André (Portuguese for Saint Andrew) is a place that shows evidence of Romanisation and of probable earlier importance, with hints of Stone Age paintings. Near the cape there are small depressions in a rock, a mystery stone, that the people believe are the footprints of Saint Andrew. Saint Andrew’s Chapel is of probable mediaeval origin, referenced in 1546 and in earlier documents. It is the burial site of drowned fishermen found at the cape. Fishermen also requested intervention from the saint for better catches. Single girls wanting to get married threw a little stone to the roof of the chapel, hoping it would lodge. Because of pagan syncretism, it is also associated with white magic up to the present day. It was common to see groups of fishermen, holding lights in their hands, making a pilgrimage to the cape’s chapel along the beach on Saint Andrew’s Eve. They believed Saint Andrew fished, from the depths, the souls of the drowned. Those who did not visit Santo André in life would have to make the pilgrimage as a corpse.

Andrew the Apostle, detail of the mosaic in the Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, 6th century.

I thought I would also include a bit about Andrew the Apostle, also called
Saint Andrew. He is the brother of Simon Peter and a son of Jonah. He is referred to in the Orthodox tradition as the ‘First-Called’. The name ‘Andrew’, meaning ‘manly, or brave’, from the Greek ‘andreía’, which means ‘manhood, valour’, like other Greek names appears to have been common among the Jews and other Hellenized people of Judea. No Hebrew or Aramaic name is recorded for him. Andrew was born between 5 and 10 AD in Bethsaida, in Galilee. The New Testament of the Bible states that he was the brother of Simon Peter and a son of Jonah. The first striking characteristic of Andrew is his name. It is not Hebrew, as might have been expected, but Greek, indicative of a certain cultural openness in his family that cannot be ignored. We are in Galilee, where the Greek language and culture are quite present. Both he and his brother Peter were fishermen by trade, hence the tradition that Jesus called them to be his disciples by saying that he would make them “fishers of men”. At the beginning of Jesus’ public life, they were said to have occupied the same house at Capernaum. In the Gospel of Matthew and in the Gospel of Mark, Simon Peter and Andrew were both called together to become disciples of Jesus. These narratives record that Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, observed Simon and Andrew fishing, and called them to discipleship. In the parallel incident in the Gospel of Luke, Andrew is not named, nor is reference made to Simon having a brother. In this narrative, Jesus initially used a boat, solely described as being Simon’s, as a platform for preaching to the multitudes on the shore and then as a means to achieving a huge trawl of fish on a night which had hitherto proved fruitless. The narrative indicates that Simon was not the only fisherman in the boat (they signalled to their partners in the other boat) but it is not until the next chapter that Andrew is named as Simon’s brother. However, it is generally understood that Andrew was fishing with Simon on the night in question. In contrast, the Gospel of John states that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist, whose testimony first led him and another unnamed disciple of John the Baptist to follow Jesus. Andrew at once recognised Jesus as the Messiah and hastened to introduce him to his brother. The Byzantine Church honours him with the name ‘Protokletos’, which means ‘the first called’. Thenceforth, the two brothers were disciples of Christ. On a subsequent occasion they were called to a closer companionship, and then they left all things to follow Jesus.Subsequently, in the gospels, Andrew is referred to as being present on some important occasions as one of the disciples more closely attached to Jesus. This is because Andrew told Jesus about the boy with the loaves and fishes, and when Philip wanted to tell Jesus about certain Greeks seeking Him, he told Andrew first. Andrew was present at the Last Supper, he was also one of the four disciples who came to Jesus on the Mount of Olives to ask about the signs of Jesus’ return. Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 260/265– 30 May 339), also known as Eusebius Pamphilus, and a Greek historian of Christianity, in his “Church History” quoted Origen of Alexandria (c. 185 – c. 253) as saying that Andrew preached in Scythia. The Chronicle of Nestor adds that he preached along the Black Sea and the Dnieper river as far as Kiev, and from there he travelled to Novgorod. Hence, he became a patron saint of Ukraine, Romania and Russia. According to Hippolytus of Rome, Andrew preached in Thrace and his presence in Byzantium is mentioned in the apocryphal Acts of Andrew. According to tradition, he founded the see of Byzantium (later Constantinople) in AD 38, installing Stachys as bishop. This diocese became the seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople under Anatolius, in 451. Andrew, along with Stachys, is recognised as the patron saint of the Patriarchate.Basil of Seleucia also knew of Apostle Andrew’s missions in Thrace, Scythia and Achaea. Andrew is said to have been martyred by crucifixion at the city of Patras (Patræ) in Achaea in AD 60. Early texts, such as the Acts of Andrew known to Gregory of Tours, describe Andrew as bound, not nailed, to a Latin cross of the kind on which Jesus is said to have been crucified, yet a tradition developed that Andrew had been crucified on a cross of the form called ‘crux decussata’ (X-shaped cross, or ‘saltire’), now commonly known as a ‘Saint Andrew’s Cross‘. This was supposedly at his own request, as he deemed himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross as Jesus had been. The iconography of the martyrdom of Andrew, showing him bound to an X-shaped cross, does not appear to have been standardised until the later Middle Ages.

The Saltire, or ‘Saint Andrew’s Cross’ is the national flag of Scotland.

I must of course end this article by mentioning Scotland itself. Several legends state that the relics of Andrew were brought by divine guidance from Constantinople to the place where the modern Scottish town of St Andrews (Gaelic, ‘Cill Rìmhinn’), stands today. The oldest surviving manuscripts are two, one being among the manuscripts collected by Jean-Baptiste Colbert and willed to Louis XIV of France, now in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris and the other in the British Library, London. They state that the relics of Andrew were brought by one Regulus to the Pictish king Óengus Mac Fergusa (729–761). The only historical Regulus (Riagail or Rule) whose name is preserved in the tower of St Rule was an Irish monk expelled from Ireland with Columba, but his dates, however, are c. 573 – 600. There are good reasons for supposing that the relics were originally in the collection of Acca, bishop of Hexham, who took them into Pictish country when he was driven from Hexham (c. 732), and founded a see, not, according to tradition, in Galloway, but on the site of St Andrews. According to legendary accounts given in 16th-century historiography, in AD 832 Óengus II led an army of Picts and Scots into battle against the Angles, led by Æthelstan, near modern-day Athelstaneford, East Lothian. The legend states that he was heavily outnumbered and hence whilst engaged in prayer on the eve of battle, Óengus vowed that if granted victory he would appoint Andrew as the patron saint of Scotland. On the morning of battle white clouds forming an X shape in the sky were said to have appeared. Óengus and his combined force, emboldened by this apparent divine intervention, took to the field and despite being inferior in numbers were victorious. Having interpreted the cloud phenomenon as representing the ‘crux decussata’ upon which Andrew was crucified, Óengus honoured his pre-battle pledge and duly appointed Andrew as the patron saint of Scotland. The white saltire set against a celestial blue background is said to have been adopted as the design of the flag of Scotland on the basis of this legend. However, there is evidence that Andrew was venerated in Scotland before this.

Traditional stone fireplace in Ryedale Folk Museum, Hutton-le-Hole, North Yorkshire. The carved Saint Andrew’s cross in the left-hand wooden post was to prevent witches from flying down the chimney.

Andrew’s connection with Scotland may have been reinforced following the Synod of Whitby, when the Celtic Church felt that Columba had been ‘outranked’ by Peter and that Peter’s brother would make a higher-ranking patron. The 1320 Declaration of Arbroath cites Scotland’s conversion to Christianity by Andrew, “the first to be an Apostle”. Numerous parish churches in the Church of Scotland and congregations of other Christian churches in Scotland are named after Andrew. The national church of the Scottish people in Rome, Sant’Andrea degli Scozzesi, is dedicated to Saint Andrew.

This time, on the same theme…
A local superstition uses the cross of Saint Andrew as a hex sign on the fireplaces in northern England and in Scotland to prevent witches from flying down the chimney and entering the house to do mischief. By placing the Saint Andrew’s cross on one of the fireplace posts or lintels, witches are prevented from entering through this opening. In this case, it is similar to the use of a witch ball, although the cross will actively prevent witches from entering, whereas the witch ball will passively delay or entice the witch, and perhaps entrap it…

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