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Tartan and Tartan Day

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Tartan Day

History of Tartan Day

Dear Craig;

I was just looking at your site and thought I would drop you a line. With reference to Tartan Day you may wish to link to

Tartan Day started in Canada in 1986 with a motion passed at a meeting of the Federation of Scottish Clans in Nova Scotia that we should have a date to honour our forebearers who came to this country (Canada) and through faith, hard work, and determination went on to help build our country and others like it. We encouraged all to wear the tartan on April 6th. We picked April 6th because it was the date of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in Scotland hand had strong significant meaning to Scots.

I was put as a one person committee to promote the date and it has now spread from coast to coast in the provinces in Canada with Quebec declaring it in 2003. We are happy and pleased that the USA picked up on Tartan Day once it was passed in Ontario and it has become a large event there

We are still working to have it put on calendars and we hope this will gradually be achieved

yours very truly
Jean MacKaracher-Watson mailto:

Tartan day in the US

April 6th 1998 was declared National Tartan Day in the US for the first time. This date was chosen because 6th April 1320 was the date of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath (see [11.3]). Coincidentally, this document formed the basis for the US Declaration of Independence. See

The official Scottish government website for Tartan Day is at

Tartan Day domains available

History of Tartan

Dwelly (Gaelic Dictionary - published 1901) writes (under breacan) Parti-coloured cloth was used by the Celts from earliest times, but the variety of colours in the breacan was greater or less according to the rank of the wearer. That of the ancient kings had seven colours, that of the druids six, and that of the nobles four. In the days of Martin the tartans seemed to be used to distinguish the inhabitants of different districts, and not the members of different families as at present. He expressely says that the inhabitants of the various islands were not all dressed alike, but that the setts and colours of the various tartans varied from isle to isle. As he does not mention the use of a special pattern by each family, it would appear that such a distinction is a modern one, and taken from the ancient custom of a tartan for each district, the family or clan originally most numerous in each part eventually adopting as their distinctive clan tartan the tartan of such district. Martin's information was not obtained on hearsay, he was born in Skye and reared in the midst of Highland customs.

MacLennan (Gaelic dictionary - published 1925) writes (under breacan) A parti-coloured dress, used by the Celts from the earliest times. "Breacan an fhéilidh", the belted plaid (consisting of twelve yards of tartan, worn round the waist, obliquely across the breast and over the left shoulder, and partly depending backwards). According to Keating it was the custom in ancient time to have one colour in the form of a slave, two in the dress of a peasant, three in the dress of a soldier or young lord, four in the dress of a brughaidh (land-holder), five in the dress of a district chief, six in the dress of an ollamh, and in that of a King and Queen.

This info about number of tartan colours and rank should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt.

The use of tartan in Scotland predates the kilt as tartan appeared as a design before the small kilt was invented. The first recorded use of the modern kilt was in 1575, but the use of tartan predates this significantly.

See also

Scottish Tartan Society

Also see:
- displays about 60 tartans

the Tartan Finder
A combination of a Java program and an online database that can be used to browse a collection of tartans with a web browser. There's currently about 270 setts online, adapted from the popular X-Windows program xtartan.

See [12.7] for information on Kirking of the Tartans

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Q-HTML V3.4 by Craig Cockburn created this page on 19-Jun-2012 at 08:06:29