Clan Tartans and Highland Flags

April 12, 2021

Clan Tartans and Highland Flags

National Tartan Day in Canada - What Is It? How Do We Celebrate?

The Minister of Canadian Heritage officially announced April 6th as National Tartan Day in Canada in 2010. This date was chosen because it corresponds with the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in the year of 1320 – the Scottish Declaration of Independence.

Wait…What's a Tartan?

Lets rewind a sec…What is a Tartan?

A Tartan is a pattern made up of different squares and crisscrossed vertical bands of alternating colours. It’s a plaid pattern that is traditionally specific to a particular family or clan. This type of clothing was originally made of wool but now they are printed on lots of different kinds of materials. Including Tartan flags!

Not only do families have their own Tartans but countries or institutions can also have tartans. Canada has one, as you know, so does each province and territory (except Nunavut) and the RCMP also has its own tartan!

Each province’s tartan was well thought out when created. There is a story and symbolism behind each one. For example, Nova Scotia’s Tartan contains blue for the sea, white for the granite rocks and surf, gold to represent the Royal Charter and Red for the Lion rampant on the provincial flag. So cool!

If you want to see pictures of the federal and provincial tartans and learn more about each the story behind each province or territories chosen tartan, click here to check out a short article.

April 6th is when the United States also celebrates their Tartan day. Communities of families with Scottish heritage participate in Tartan Day activities such as Highland dancing, parades and listening to pipe bands. An annual “Gathering of the Clans” takes place on April 6th or the nearest Sunday to it on Parliament Hill in Ottawa at noon. There are pipes, drums, and dancing hosted by the Sons of Scotland Pipe Band. The oldest civilian pipe band in Canada.

In Canada about 4.7 million Canadians claim Scottish descent and their devotion to their heritage is marked in these events. Canada even has its own official tartan called the Maple Leaf.

The Maple Leaf Tartan was crated in 1964 by a man named David Weiser for the awaited centennial in 1967 but it wasn’t formally adopted until 2011.

What Do People Wear on Tartan Day?

The Kilt – a kilt is a type of skirt worn by Scottish men and sometimes women when they are doing Highland Dancing. It usually bears the clan tartan of that individual.

The Sporran – Sporran is a Gaelic word that means “purse.” It serves as a decorative piece and sits atop the kilt. It is functional as well and can serve as a pocket if your kilt is not folded in a way to include one. Traditionally sporrans are made of deerskin but, of course, today come in a number of different materials.

How Do We Use Tartan Flags to Mark An Occasion? 

FlagMart Canada is no stranger to Tartans. We frequently get requests from a number of families and clans who wish to get a custom flag made with their Tartan on it. 

Tartan flags are displayed at weddings, family/clan reunions, on family residential flag poles or to cover a casket for a funeral.

Feel free to comment and let us know if you have a Clan Tartan and how you display your pattern and show your family pride!

Let us know if you would like to reach out and have a Clan Tartan flag made for your event or as a gift for a family member. Email or call 1-833-989-0313 to inquire.

Photo by Melody Ayres-Griffiths on Unsplash




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