Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans

The 13th annual Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans will be celebrated at The First Church in Belfast, United Church of Christ at 104 Church St., Belfast, on Sunday, July 16th, at the 10:00 a.m. worship service. Although not a formal part of The Maine Celtic Celebration, this event provides another opportunity to celebrate local Celtic heritage.

Literally, Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans” means “The blessing of the Tartans.” It reflects back to the time after the British loyalists defeated the Scottish Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. As punishment, Scots were forbidden to wear their kilts and tartans, and many of their men were pressed into service by the British government. Tradition holds that the women of the highland clans, whose men were far from home, would bring a small piece of their tartan to the Kirk (church) to be blessed secretly and to pray for heaven’s protection for the clan and for its members.  Since that time, the tradition of the Kirkin’ O’ the Tartans has evolved into a colorful, festive occasion for celebrating Scottish heritage. The congregation asks God’s blessings and protection for those represented by the tartans, recognizes the historical contributions of native Scots and Scottish-heritage Americans, and celebrates the faith traditions of the Celtic and Scottish peoples.

The First Church service includes things like the “calling of the clans” where anyone of Celtic descent can stand and shout out their family name; the “blessing of the bairns,” a special message and blessing for the children; and the “fields of the forest,” a remembrance of those who have died in the past year. The service also features Scottish or Irish music, sung and played on traditional instruments.

So bring the lads and lassies for a blessing and the whole clan, whether you’re Scottish or not, for a time of celebration and thanksgiving. For more information, call the church office, 338-2282 or check out the website at www.firstchurchinbelfast.org.