Scottish-American Heritage Month is an annual celebration in which we pay tribute to the rich cultural contributions of Scottish immigrants and their descendants in America.
This month-long observance is a living tribute to the ongoing contributions of Scottish Americans ( or Scots Americans, if you prefer!) – past, present, and future.
History of Scottish-American Heritage Month
The story of Scottish-American heritage is as old as the United States itself. The first Scottish immigrant, Robert Sproat, arrived in America on the Mayflower in 1620. That voyage marked only the beginning of a long history of Scottish immigration to the New World.
The 1717 Transportation Act further accelerated Scottish immigration, as it provided for the relocation of Scottish criminals and Jacobite rebels to America as a form of punishment. But many left of their own will.
Scotland’s political upheavals and social changes drove many to leave their native land. Many were seeking religious freedom. But others were affected by the clan system’s collapse and sought a fresh start.
The second half 1700s saw a significant increase in Scottish immigrants to the British colonies. Many Scots joined the Revolutionary Army during the American Revolution, which alarmed the British government and temporarily outlawed emigration to North America. Later, the determined Scottish continued to arrive in the newly independent United States.
Since they arrived in the New World in 1620, Scottish immigrants have left an unmistakable and permanent mark on American culture. For example, people of Scottish heritage were among those original signers of the Declaration of Independence, including James Monroe and Alexander Hamilton.
Alexander Graham Bell, who invented the telephone, was also – you guessed it – a Scottish-American. The contributions of Scottish descendants are profound and far-reaching in American life.
Today, approximately 8% of Americans claim Scottish heritage. These prominent figures in movies and politics include Hillary Clinton, Jennifer Aniston, and Barack Obama. Whether you love him or would leave him behind, even Donald Trump’s mother was Scottish.
How to Celebrate Scottish-American Heritage Month
Celebrating Scottish-American Heritage Month can be both educational and fun. Here are some ways to enjoy the month and honor this rich cultural heritage:
Attend a Scottish-American Event
Many cities host events such as parades and cultural festivals during Scottish-American Heritage Month. These events are wonderful opportunities to experience Scottish music, dancing, and traditional foods.
They also provide a space to learn about the historic roles of Scottish immigrants and their impact on American society.
Explore Scottish Cuisine
Scottish cuisine offers a unique and flavorful experience. From savory haggis to sweet shortbread, you can find a vast variety of dishes to explore. Tasting these foods is all about connecting with the culinary traditions that Scottish immigrants brought to America.
Wear Scottish Attire
Level up your next Scottish-American Heritage Month event by showing up to a Scottish heritage event in a kilt or tartan.
Wearing these traditional garments is a way to celebrate and show pride in Scottish heritage visually. Even if you don’t have Scottish roots, wearing tartan is a respectful nod to Scotland’s cultural legacy.
Learn About Scottish Contributions
Take time this month to learn a little more about the contributions of Scottish-Americans throughout American history.
This could mean going online to learn about inventors like Alexander Graham Bell, studying the role of Scottish soldiers in the American Revolution, or exploring the Scottish roots of many U.S. presidents.
Read with Scottish-American Authors
Scottish-Americans also played an enormous role in shaping American literature and folklore. Re-reading some classics like “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” or Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” can provide insights into the Scottish influence on American storytelling.
Stream Bagpipe Music
One of the most iconic symbols of Scotland is its most famous music – the haunting and soulful sound of the bagpipes. Find some bagpipe videos on YouTube or your favorite streaming services during Scottish-American Heritage Month.
Hearing the lilting melodies can be a wonderful way to immerse yourself in Scottish culture. Here are some notable songs to help you get you started on this listening adventure:
- “The Highland Fling”
- “Amazing Grace”
- “Scotland the Brave,”
- “Flower of Scotland”
- “The Skye Boat Song.”
Scottish-American Heritage Month is a terrific time to reflect on Scottish immigrants to America and their legacies. It’s also when you can celebrate the many ways they have added so much to our culture and history.
Whether you attend events, try some Scottish cuisine, pull on a kilt, or simply learn more about their contributions, there are numerous ways to engage with and appreciate Scottish heritage.