Have you ever been to a Scottish Highland Games or Festival? I was invited to my first festival in 1998. Since then I’ve attended dozens of them and traveled to at least eight cities and communities in doing so. The furthest hubby and I have traveled to attend a Highland Games event is from our Oregon home to the Grandfather Mountain Games in North Carolina — one of the oldest such events in the United States.
Highland Games and festival events grew out of the desire of Scottish immigrants to come together to celebrate their heritage and culture and to help Scottish descendants discover their roots.
There is pageantry in the opening ceremonies with its parade of kilted men, bagpipes, flags and brightly colored banners carried by the various Scottish clans marching in the parade. The skirl of bagpipes fills the air and somewhere on the festival grounds you can find entertainers playing traditional Scottish music with fiddles, mandolins, harps and bodhrans (Irish drums). Other entertainment will include both traditional Scottish folk singers sharing traditional music in English and sometimes in Scottish Gaelic, as well as a fusion of traditional songs with a rock beat.
Colorful booths are arranged around the grounds housing representatives of individual clans bearing names like Muir, MacClean, McKinnon, Grant, Gordon and many others. At these booths you can find see if your surname or that of your ancestors matches one of the myriad American spelling variations on the clan names. From there you will be able to discover more about the history of the clan you belong to. There is so much a person can learn about themselves when they learn where and from whom they’ve come. You can also find out which of the colorful tartans (plaid cloth) might be one that belongs to your family.
That is one reason the games have been so important to me. I’ve been amazed to discover how much of my personality and my preferences have trickled down through the genes I inherited from my Scottish ancestors.
Tomorrow and for the next few days I’ll share more about what can be found at Scottish Highland Games – and why some events are called “Games” and others are called “Festivals”.