What is The Kirking of the Tartans?
Etymologically it simply means: Kirking, from the Scottish Gaelic word kirk which means church, in this usage means “blessing.” Tartans are the traditional plaid emblems of Scottish clans represented in unevenly spaced colored lines and rectangles on woven wool cloth.The Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans service was created or “revived” during World War II by Reverend Peter Marshall, perhaps best known by the biographical book and film A Man Called Peter— who was originally from southwest Scotland and at one time pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. In 1947 he served as Chaplain of the U.S. Senate. In order to encourage Scottish Americans to sign up to fight on behalf of Great Britain, Peter Marshall recreated the Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans ceremony to try to instill pride among Scottish Americans in their Scottish homeland.
The ceremony was at that time held in Presbyterian churches of Scottish heritage across the US. Today, the celebration is not limited to Presbyterian churches, but is found in Episcopalian, Methodist, Roman, Catholic, Orthodox, and other denominations across the world. Now, in present day celebration, the Highlander patriotism, faithfulness, and strong independence are remembered by the displaying of tartans and public parade of the clans to the sound of the bagpipe. While often celebrated on Reformation Sunday the last Sunday in October, Kirkin’s are also celebrated at other times of the year, as on St. Andrew’s Day — the patron saint of Scotland — on November 30, and Tartan Day on April 6. In 1954, the Kirkin‘ service was moved to the National Cathedral (Episcopal) in Washington — home of the Episcopal diocese of Washington — where it is still held to the present day. In churches, and even at Scottish Highland Games, the Kirkin’ is celebrated by Scots — and those who would be Scots — accompanied by prayer, scripture, preaching, blessing, bagpipe, and of course, the singing of Amazing Grace.
Above, are a few examples of the different tartans that belong to different clans. A Scottish clan (from Gaelic clann, “children”) is a kinship group among the Scottish people. Clans give a sense of shared identity and descent to members, and in modern times have an official structure recognized by the Court of the Lord Lyon, which regulates Scottish heraldry and coats of arms. Most clans have their own tartan patterns, usually dating from the 19th century, which members may incorporate into kilts or other clothing.
Do you want to find your tartan? Go to Scotclans.com and just type in your last name to find the clan that you belong to. This website shows you your clan name, tartans, coat of arms and your clan history.