Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happy Saint Andrew's Day!

First off, apologies for my recent neglect of this blog.  It turns out being a  MA Journalism student can be quite busy, especially during finals.  Luckily, I'm all done at the end of this week... sort of. Classes end tomorrow and then I have a week of essay due dates and shorthand exams.  Then a week of work placement at this magazine, and then I'm really done.

But in spite my hectic schedule, I need to take a few minutes to tell you about Saint Andrew's Day 2011 in Edinburgh.

Saint Andrew's Cross, The Saltire, is on Scotland's Flag
November 30 is a bank holiday in Scotland every year to celebrate the life of Scotland's Patron Saint, Andrew of Galilee.  While it isn't as raucous or legendary as Ireland's Saint Patrick's day, Saint Andrew's Day is an important holiday in Scotland, especially for history buffs. For the week leading up to November 30, many Scottish Heritage sites, especially castles, offer free entry and events.

Today I took advantage of this program with a free trip to Edinburgh Castle.  The city's top attraction, it is home to Scotland's War Museum, The Stone of Destiny, and the Scottish Crown Jewels.  Since it was built around 1130 AD, it has seen many battle but never changed hands by anything but willing surrender.  As far as castles go, Edinburgh is as tough as they come.

 It is also the inspiration for Hogwarts' Castle in the Harry Potter series, which is pretty exciting for nerds like me.

But this year's Saint Andrew's Day wasn't only marked by free entry to attractions and closed banks. This year, November 30 saw 300,000 public sector workers go on strike in Scotland, as part of a larger "day of action" throughout Britain.  Universities, libraries, doctor's offices, and local government shut down today, as workers protested pension cuts.

I witnessed a demonstration in the city centre this morning, and it was absolutely massive.

To be honest, I'm not sure what my exact opinion is on this movement, but I was happy to see all these people standing up for their beliefs in a non-violent way.  As my friend Claudia said, we were lucky to witness "British Democracy in Action" on Saint Andrews day.

And with classes cancelled as our lecturers walked out, we had a ready-made excuse to skive off and enjoy a wee bit of free sightseeing on Saint Andrews day!

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