Celebrating Scottish Americans on National Tartan Day

national tartan day

The Irish get St. Patrick’s Day, and the English get just about every other day on the calendar — what do the Scottish get? “Shite,” as they might say.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Today, April 6th, is National Tartan Day — a holiday meant to honor the considerable contributions of Scots and Scottish Americans to our society. Said contributions include television, MRI scanners, and, of course, the works of Sir Sean Connery.

About National Tartan Day

“Tartan” refers to patterns of criss-crossing lines that you’ve likely seen on kilts, scarves, hats, or rolls of Scotch tape. Different tartan patterns are associated with different regions or clans; generally speaking, the simpler the tartan pattern, the newer the family. National Tartan Day has been officially observed in the U.S. since 1997.

The April 6th celebration commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath on that date in 1320. In the declaration, the lords of Scotland declared themselves independent of English rule, and many say the document had a significant influence on our own Declaration of Independence. How’s that for a contribution to American society? Though Scotland is not currently an independent sovereign state — and in fact recently rejected independence from the United Kingdom — the declaration is still a source of Scottish pride.

What It Means to Be Scottish

At least 11 million Americans claim Scottish roots, which means they aren’t hard to find. For some information about what it means to be Scottish-American, we reached out to Dusty McFarland, a second-generation Scottish American and retired military veteran based in Canby, Oregon.

“My Scottish roots go back to the town of Greenock, Scotland, which is about 40 miles west of Glasgow,” says McFarland. “My grandfather came over right before we got into WWII, joined up with the U.S. Navy to basically get his citizenship, fought in the South Pacific, and here I stand before you.” Dusty McFarland also served in the U.S. military, spending a total of 21 years with the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard.

McFarland has several tattoos that highlight his heritage, including one of St. Andrew’s Cross — Scotland’s national flag — and one of McFarland’s family’s heraldry. McFarland often dons a kilt, and was proud to get married in one.

We asked McFarland what it means to be Scottish, and he answered thus: “To me, it’s a sense of pride. It also means stubborn — which is not always a bad thing — and some pretty good steel in your backbone. Scotland is a very unforgiving land.”

Related: Micro Guide: Edinburgh

What to Do on National Tartan Day

More and more U.S. cities are holding National Tartan Day celebrations. This year, the New York Tartan Day Parade is scheduled for Saturday, April 11. In fact, New York is observing Tartan Week all this week, with a number of concerts, pub crawls, and other events.

As you might have guessed, drinking is a popular pastime in Scotland. Even if you can’t make it to an official Tartan Day celebration, you can still raise a glass to your Scottish friends or ancestors. You might enjoy a pint of dark ale, a glass of neat scotch, or perhaps a Scottish-themed cocktail. The lads at Laphroaig — a scotch whiskey distillery on Scotland’s Isle of Islay — were kind enough to provide us with a special cocktail recipe.

Laphroaig Plaid and Peated:laphroaig


  • 1 part Laphroaig Quarter Cask Single Malt Scotch Whisky
  • 1⁄2 part Dry Vermouth
  • 1⁄2 part Cynar
  • 1⁄2 part Elderflower Liqueur


Combine all ingredients in mixing glass with ice. Stir well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.