Scottish Customs and Traditions

Scottish Weddings, main customs. The name "kilt". The Sporran as a traditional part of male Scottish Highland dress, main types. The Balmoral as a traditional Scottish hat that can be worn as part of formal Highland dress. The Great Highland Bagpipe.

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Scottish Weddings

Usually a week before the wedding, the mother of the bride will conduct a `show of presents' for her daughter, similar to bridal shower in other cultures. Female guests will bring presents to help the new couple start their own new home. The presents are unwrapped before the guests. For the groom, there is a wild night party, where the groom and his male friends spend the whole night partying and drinking.

The Scottish bride will wear a traditional or contemporary white wedding gown, while the groom dresses in traditional Highland kilt, kilt jacket and sporran. The couple is either bag piped down the aisle or traditional Gaelic hymns are played as they walk to the altar. After the vows, which is recited in ancient Gaelic or modern English, the groom often pins a strip of his clan's tartan colors to the bride's wedding dress to imply that she is now a member of his clan. Later on the wedding reception will be held.

One custom that has been followed for more than 700 years is the custom of the groom carrying his new bride over the doorstep of their new home together. This ritual is considered to keep evil spirits from entering his wife through her feet.

Scottish clothing

The term Highland dress describes the traditional dress of Scotland. It is often characterised by tartan (plaid in North America) patterns in some form.

Male highland dress includes kilt (or trews), sporran, sgian dubh and ghillies. Ghillies, or ghillie brogues, are traditional thick soled shoes with no tongues and long laces. The laces are wrapped around and tied above the wearer's ankles so that the shoes do not get pulled off in mud. The shoes lack tongues so the wearer's feet can dry more quickly in typically damp Scottish weather. The ghillie brogue is named after the ghillie, the traditional Scottish gamekeeper and outdoorsman.

Female highland dress includes women's shoes, also called ghillies, that are tied in the same way but have thin soles for indoor wear and dancing. Traditionally, women and girls do not wear kilts but may wear ankle-length tartan skirts. A tartan sash or shawl may also be worn. Women may also wear dress tartans which are modified versions which include white in place of a more prominent colour.

Kilt

The kilt is a knee-length garment with pleats at the rear, originating in the traditional dress of men and boys in the Scottish Highlands of the 16th century. Since the 19th century it has become associated with the wider culture of Scotland in general, or with Celtic (and more specifically Gaelic) heritage even more broadly. It is most often made of woollen cloth in a tartan pattern.

Although the kilt is most often worn on formal occasions and at Highland games and sports events, it has also been adapted as an item of fashionable informal male clothing in recent years, returning to its roots as an everyday garment.

The kilt first appeared as the great kilt in the 16th century, a full-length garment whose upper half could be worn as a cloak draped over the shoulder, or brought up over the head. The small kilt or walking kilt (similar to the "modern" kilt) did not develop until the late 17th or early 18th century, and is essentially the bottom half of the great kilt.

The name "kilt" is applied to a range of garments:

The traditional garment, either in its historical form, or in the modern adaptation now usual in Scotland, usually in a tartan pattern

The kilts worn by Irish pipe bands are based on the traditional Scottish garment but in a single (solid) colour

Variants of the Scottish kilt adopted in other Celtic nations, such as the Welsh cilt and the Cornish cilt

Other skirt-like garments designed for men, but more or less different in structure from the Scottish kilt, including contemporary kilts

Certain types of pleated wrapover skirt worn as school uniform by girls.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the noun derives from a verb to kilt, originally meaning "to gird up; to tuck up (the skirts) round the body", itself of Scandinavian origin.

The Scottish kilt displays uniqueness of design, construction, and convention which differentiate it from other garments fitting the general description. It is a tailored garment that is wrapped around the wearer's body at the natural waist (between the lowest rib and the hip) starting from one side (usually the wearer's left), around the front and back and across the front again to the opposite side. The fastenings consist of straps and buckles on both ends, the strap on the inside end usually passing through a slit in the waistband to be buckled on the outside; alternatively it may remain inside the waistband and be buckled inside.

A kilt covers the body from the waist down to the centre of the knees. The overlapping layers in front are called "aprons" and are flat; the single layer of fabric around the sides and back is pleated. A kilt pin is fastened to the front apron on the free corner (but is not passed through the layer below, as its function is to add weight). Underwear may or may not be worn, as the wearer prefers, although tradition has it that a "true Scotsman" should wear nothing under his kilt. The Scottish Tartans Authority, however, has described the practice as childish and unhygienic.

The typical kilt as seen at modern Highland games events is made of twill woven worsted wool. The twill weave used for kilts is a "2-2 type", meaning that each weft thread passes over and under two warp threads at a time. The result is a distinctive diagonal-weave pattern in the fabric which is called the twill line. This kind of twill, when woven according to a given sett or written colour pattern, (see below), is called tartan. In contrast kilts worn by Irish pipers are made from solid-colour cloth, with saffron or green being the most widely used colours.

Kilting fabric weights are given in ounces per yard and run from the very-heavy, regimental worsted of approximately 18-22 ounces down to a light worsted of about 10-11 ounces. The most common weights for kilts are 13 ounces and 16 ounces. The heavier weights are more appropriate for cooler weather, while the lighter weights would tend to be selected for warmer weather or for active use, such as Highland dancing. Some patterns are available in only a few weights.

A modern kilt for a typical adult uses about 6-8 yards of single-width (about 26-30 inches) or about 3-4 yards of double-width (about 54-60 inches) tartan fabric. Double-width fabric is woven so that the pattern exactly matches on the selvage. Kilts are usually made without a hem because a hem would make the garment too bulky and cause it to hang incorrectly. The exact amount of fabric needed depends upon several factors including the size of the sett, the number of pleats put into the garment, and the size of the person. For a full kilt, 8 yards of fabric would be used regardless of size and the number of pleats and depth of pleat would be adjusted according to their size. For a very large waist, it may be necessary to use 9 yards of cloth.

The Scottish kilt is usually worn with kilt hose (woollen socks), turned down at the knee, often with garter flashes, and a sporran (Gaelic for "purse": a type of pouch), which hangs around the waist from a chain or leather strap. This may be plain or embossed leather, or decorated with sealskin, fur, or polished metal plating.

Other common accessories, depending on the formality of the context, include:

A belt (usually with embossed buckle)

A jacket (of various traditional designs)

A kilt pin

A sgian dubh (Gaelic: "black knife": a small sheathed knife worn in the top of the hose)

Ghillie brogues

Sporran

The Sporran is a traditional part of male Scottish Highland dress. It is a pouch that performs the same function as pockets on the pocketless Scottish kilt.

Made of leather or fur, the ornamentation of the sporran is determined by the formality of dress worn with it. The sporran is worn on a leather strap or chain, conventionally positioned in front of the groin of the wearer.

Since the traditional kilt does not have pockets, the sporran serves as a wallet and container for any other necessary personal items. It is essentially a survival of the common European medieval belt-pouch, superseded elsewhere as clothing came to have pockets, but continuing in the Scottish Highlands because of the lack of these accessories in traditional dress.

The sporran hangs below the belt buckle; and much effort is made to match their style and design. The kilt belt buckle can be very ornate, and contain similar motifs to the sporran cantle and the Sgian Dubh. Early sporrans may have been worn suspended from the belt, rather than hung from a separate strap in front of the wearer.

When driving a car, dancing, playing drums, or engaging in any activity where a heavy pouch might encumber the wearer, the sporran can be turned around the waist to let it hang on the hip in a more casual position.

Sporran types

"Day Sporrans" are usually brown leather pouches with simple adornment. These "day" sporrans often have three or more leather tassels and frequently Celtic knot designs carved or embossed into the leather.

"Dress Sporrans" can be larger than the day variety, and are often highly ornate. Victorian examples were usually quite ostentatious, and much more elaborate than the simple leather pouch of the 17th or 18th centuries. They can have sterling or silver-plated cantles trimming the top of the pouch and a fur-covered face with fur or hair tassels. The cantle may contain intricate filigree or etchings of Celtic knots. The top of the cantle may have a set stone, jewel, or emblems such as Saint Andrew, a thistle, Clan, or Masonic symbols.

"Animal Mask Sporrans" are made from the pelts of mammals such as the badger, otter, fox, pine marten, or other small animals, with the head forming a flap that folds over the front and closes the opening at the top of the sporran.

"Horsehair Sporrans" are most often worn as a part of regimental attire. Pipers will often wear the most flamboyant sporrans with long horsehair that swishes from side to side as the piper marches.

Common misconceptions about the sporran:

It keeps the front flap of the kilt down during dancing, running etc.

The front of the kilt is in fact a double flap coming from left and right. The sporran itself is more likely to fly around during energetic movement due to its looser attachment and greater inertia. However the sporran does weigh the flap down when sitting legs apart, although the kilt is designed to do this naturally without additional help.

It is a form of armour for the groin

The studded 'apron' on the Roman Balteus (sword belt) is sometimes referred to as a 'sporran' or 'groin guard', and this has led to confusion with the Scottish sporran-ironically, as the Roman 'groin guard' was solely decorative.

As sporrans are made of animal skin, their production, ownership and transportation across borders can be regulated by legislation set to control the trade of protected and endangered species. A 2007 BBC report on legislation introduced by the Scottish Executive stated that sporran owners may need licences to prove that the animals used in construction of their pouch conformed to these regulations.

However several of the species listed in the BBC article are not covered by the Habitats Directives of the legislation, and of the over 100 different animals listed by the legislation only a few, such as Otter, have ever been associated with sporran construction. Most common sporran skins are not controlled or regulated animals in regards to this legislation.

Sgian-dubh

The sgian-dubh is a small, singled-edged knife (Gaelic sgian) worn as part of traditional Scottish Highland dress along with the kilt. It is worn tucked into the top of the kilt hose with only the upper portion of the hilt visible. The sgian-dubh is normally worn on the right leg, but can also be worn on the left, depending on whether the wearer is right or left-handed.

Balmoral

The Balmoral (more fully the Balmoral bonnet in Scottish English or Balmoral cap otherwise, and formerly called the Kilmarnock bonnet) is a traditional Scottish hat that can be worn as part of formal or informal Highland dress. Dating back to at least the 16th century, it takes the form of a knitted, soft wool cap with a flat crown. It is named after Balmoral Castle, a royal residence in Scotland. It is an alternative to the similar and related (informal) Tam o' Shanter cap and the (formal or informal) Glengarry bonnet.

Originally with a voluminous crown, today the bonnet is smaller, made of finer cloth and tends to be dark blue, black or lovat green. Ribbons in, or attached to the back of, the band (originally used to secure the bonnet tightly) are sometimes worn hanging from the back of the cap. A regimental or clan badge is worn on the left-hand side, affixed to a silk or grosgrain ribbon cockade (usually black, white or red), with the bonnet usually worn tilted to the right to display this emblem. The centre of the crown features a toorie, traditionally red. Some versions have a diced band (usually red and white check) around the circumference of the lower edge.

As worn by Scottish Highland regiments the "blue bonnet" Tam o' Shanter gradually developed into a stiffened felt cylinder, often decorated with an ostrich plume hackle sweeping over the crown from left to right (as well as flashes of bearskin or painted turkey hackles). In the 19th century this tall cap evolved into the extravagant full dress feather bonnet while, as an undress cap, the plainer form continued in use until the mid-19th century. By then known as the Kilmarnock bonnet, it was officially replaced by the Glengarry bonnet, which had been in use unofficially since the late eighteenth century and was essentially a folding version of the cylindrical military cap.

The name "Balmoral" as applied to this traditional headdress appears to date from the late 19th century and in 1903 a blue bonnet in traditional style but with a stiffened crown was adopted briefly by some Lowland regiments as full dress headgear. After the Second World War, while all other Scottish regiments chose the Glengarry, a soft blue Balmoral was adopted as full dress headgear by the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) and was worn with the green no. 1 dress jacket and with khaki no. 2 or service dress. As part of the amalgamation of the Scottish regiments in 2006, the military Balmoral was done away with and all battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland now wear the Glengarry.

Use of the Balmoral has been championed by songwriter Richard Thompson, who uses it on stage, in addition to its traditional place in Highland dress.

scottish weddings kilt sporran

The Great Highland Bagpipe

The Great Highland Bagpipe (Scottish Gaelic: a' phiob mhor; often abbreviated GHB in English) is a type of bagpipe native to Scotland. It has achieved widespread recognition through its usage in the British military and in pipe bands throughout the world. It is closely related to the Great Irish Warpipes.

The bagpipe is first attested in Scotland around 1400 AD, having previously appeared in European artwork in Spain in the 13th century. The earliest references to bagpipes in Scotland are in a military context, and it is in that context that the Great Highland Bagpipe became established in the British military and achieved the widespread prominence it enjoys today, whereas other bagpipe traditions throughout Europe, ranging from Portugal to Russia, almost universally went into decline by the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Though widely famous for its role in military and civilian pipe bands, the Great Highland Bagpipe is also used for a solo virtuosic style called piobaireachd (aka pibroch).

Though popular belief sets varying dates for the introduction of bagpipes to Scotland, concrete evidence is limited until approximately the 15th century. The Clan Menzies still owns a remnant of a set of bagpipes said to have been carried at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, though the veracity of this claim is debated. There are many ancient legends and stories about bagpipes which were passed down through minstrels and oral tradition, whose origins are now lost. However, textual evidence for Scottish bagpipes is more definite in 1396, when records of the Battle of the North Inch of Perth reference "warpipes" being carried into battle. These references may be considered evidence as to the existence of particularly Scottish bagpipes, but evidence of a form peculiar to the Highlands appears in a poem written in 1598 (and later published in The Complaynt of Scotland which refers to several types of pipe, including the Highland: "On hieland pipes, Scotte and Hybernicke / Let heir be shraichs of deadlie clarions."

In 1746, after the forces loyal to the Hanoverian government had defeated the Jacobites in the Battle of Culloden, King George II attempted to assimilate the Highlands into Great Britain by weakening Gaelic culture and the Scottish clan system, though claims that the Act of Proscription 1746 banned the Highland bagpipes are not substantiated by the text itself. It was soon realised that Highlanders made excellent troops and a number of regiments were raised from the Highlands over the second half of the eighteenth century. Although the early history of pipers within these regiments is not well documented, there is evidence that these regiments had pipers at an early stage and there are numerous accounts of pipers playing into battle during the 19th century, practice which continued into World War I when it was abandoned due to the high casualty rate (though sporadic incidents of pipers playing into battle have occurred regularly since).

The Great Highland Bagpipe is classified as a woodwind instrument, like the bassoon, oboe, or clarinet. Although it is classified as a double reed instrument, the reeds are all closed inside the wooden stocks, instead of being played directly by mouth as other woodwinds are. The GHB actually has four reeds; the chanter reed (double), two tenor drone reeds (single), and one bass drone reed (single).

A modern set has a bag, a chanter, a blowpipe, two tenor drones, and one bass drone. The scale on the chanter is in Mixolydian mode, which has a flattened 7th or leading tone. It has a range from one whole tone lower than the tonic to one octave above it (in piper's parlance: Low G, Low A, B, C#, D, E, F#, High G, and High A; the C and F could or should be called sharp but this is often omitted).* Yet the notes played are actually in the key of B?. Although less so now, depending on the tuning of the player, certain notes are tuned slightly off just intonation, for example, the D could be tuned slightly sharp for effect. However, today the notes of the chanter are usually tuned in just intonation to the Mixolydian scale. The two tenor drones are an octave below the keynote (Low A) of the chanter) and the bass drone two octaves below.

Modern developments have included reliable synthetic drone reeds, and synthetic bags that deal with moisture arguably better than hide bags.

Highland pipes were originally constructed of locally-available woods such as holly, laburnum, and boxwood. Later, as expanding colonisation and trade expanded access to more exotic woods, tropical hardwoods such as cocuswood (the Caribbean), ebony (West African and South and Southeast Asia) and African blackwood (Subsaharran Africa) became the standards in the late 18th and 19th centuries. In the modern day, synthetic materials, particularly Polypenco, have become quite popular, particularly in pipe bands where uniformity of chanters is desirable.

The Gaelic word piobaireachd simply means "pipe music", but it has been adapted into English as piobaireachd or pibroch. In Gaelic, this, the "great music" of the GHB is referred to as ceol mor, and "light music" (such as marches and dance tunes) is referred to as ceol beag.

Ceol mor consists of a slow "ground" movement (Gaelic urlar) which is a simple theme, then a series of increasingly complex variations on this theme, and ends with a return to the ground. Ceol Beag includes marches (2/4, 4/4, 6/8, 3/4, etc), dance tunes (particularly strathspeys, reels, hornpipes, and jigs), slow airs, and more. The ceol mor style was developed by the well-patronized dynasties of bagpipers - MacArthurs, MacGregors, Rankins, and especially the MacCrimmons - and seems to have emerged as a distinct form during the 17th century.

Compared to many other musical instruments, the GHB is limited by its range (nine notes), lack of dynamics, and the enforced legato style, due to the continuous airflow from the bag. The GHB is a closed reed instrument, which means that the four reeds are completely encased within the instrument and the player cannot change the sound of the instrument via mouth position or tonguing. As a result, notes cannot be separated by simply stopping blowing or tonguing so gracenotes and combinations of gracenotes, called embellishments, are used for this purpose. These more complicated ornaments using two or more gracenotes include doublings, taorluaths, throws, grips, birls. There are also a set of ornaments usually used for piobaireachd, for example the dare, vedare, chedare, darado, taorluath and crunluath. Some of these embellishments have found their way into light music over the course of the 20th century. These embellishments are also used for note emphasis, for example to emphasize the beat note or other phrasing patterns. These three single gracenotes (G, D, and E) are the most commonly used and are often played in succession. All gracenotes are performed rapidly, by quick finger movements, giving an effect similar to tonguing or articulation on modern wind instruments. Due to the lack of rests and dynamics, all expression in GHB music comes from the use of embellishments and to a larger degree by varying the duration of notes. Despite the fact that most GHB music is highly rhythmically regimented and structured, proper phrasing of all types of GHB music relies heavily on rubato, the ability of the player to stretch specific notes within a phrase or measure. In particular, the main beats and off-beats of each phrase are structured, however, sub-divisions within each beat are flexible.

"Few attempts have been made hitherto to combine the bagpipes with classical orchestral instruments, due mainly to conflicts of balance and tuning," said composer Graham Waterhouse about his work Chieftain's Salute op. 34a for Great Highland Bagpipe and String Orchestra (2001). "A satisfactory balance was achieved in this piece by placing the piper at a distance from the orchestra."[7] Peter Maxwell Davies' Orkney Wedding, With Sunrise (1985) also features a GHB solo towards the end.

The GHB plays a role as both a solo and ensemble instrument. In ensembles, it is generally played as part of a pipe band. One notable form of solo employment is the position of Piper to the Sovereign, a piper tasked to perform for the British sovereign, a position dating back to the time of Queen Victoria.

The GHB is widely used by both soloists and pipe bands civilian and military, and is now played in countries around the world. It is particularly popular in areas with large Scottish and Irish emigrant populations, mainly England, Canada, United States of America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

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