Tartan Day is a time for Scots to come together from all disciplines and backgrounds to share experiences, support one another and inspire future progress and working together.
Tartan Day marks the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320 at Arbroath Abbey. This historical occasion sowed the seeds of modern day democracy and was used as a basis for the American Declaration of Independence. Tartan Day was inspired by this historical occasion to celebrate all that is good about Scotland - its people, its heritage, its history, its culture and its amazing legacy to the world.
The Tartan Day Scotland Festival takes place at the beginning of April each year. The Festival is a programme of very special events which commemorate all that is best about Scotland and the Scots, home and away.
In Australia, wearing tartan on July 1 has been encouraged since 1989. The day has been promoted as International Tartan Day in Australia since 1996 and has been formally recognized by many states, but not at national level. The United States Senate recognized April 6 as Tartan Day in 1998.
The Declaration of Arbroath was a declaration of Scottish Independence and set out to confirm Scotland's status as an independent sovereign state and its use of military action if unjustly attacked. The declaration, which was signed within the hallowed ground of Arbroath Abbey, is in the form of a letter to Pope John XXII dated April 6, 1320.
Tartan is a pattern consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours. Tartans originated in woven wool, but now they are made in many other materials. Tartan is particularly associated with Scotland. Scottish kilts almost always have tartan patterns. Tartan is often called plaid in North America, but in Scotland, a plaid is a tartan cloth slung over the shoulder as a kilt accessory, or a plain ordinary blanket such as one would have on a bed.
Tartan is made with alternating bands of coloured (pre-dyed) threads woven as both warp and weft at right angles to each other. This forms visible diagonal lines where different colours cross, which give the appearance of new colours blended from the original ones. The resulting blocks of colour repeat vertically and horizontally in a distinctive pattern of squares and lines known as a sett.
Until the middle of the nineteenth century, the highland tartans were only associated with either regions or districts, rather than any specific clan. This was because like other materials tartan designs were produced by local weavers for local tastes and would usually only use the natural dyes available in that area, as chemical dye production was non-existent and transportation of other dye materials across long distances was prohibitively expensive.
The patterns were simply different regional checked-cloth patterns, chosen by the wearer's preference – in the same way as people nowadays choose what colours and patterns they like in their clothing, without particular reference to propriety. It was not until the mid-nineteenth century that many patterns were created and artificially associated with Scottish clans, families, or institutions who were (or wished to be seen as) associated in some way with a Scottish heritage.
It is generally stated that the most popular tartans today are the Black Watch (also known as Old Campbell, Grant Hunting, Universal, Government) and Royal Stewart. Today tartan is no longer limited to textiles but is used on non-woven mediums, such as paper, plastics, packaging, and wall coverings.