25 November 2013
We discover how St Andrew's Day is celebrated in Thailand - with a band flown in all the way from Aberdeen. ...
As a one-time ex-pat, I know how important it is to celebrate traditions that back in Scotland had perhaps passed you by. It’s not so much about asserting your heritage abroad, nor even about staving off homesickness, it’s about having something from your old life merged and mixed with your new; it’s about creating something different that is also the same and making a foreign country home.
St Andrew’s Day is a perfect example of this. Frankly, it’s not something we Scots in Scotland make much of a fuss about, but for Scots abroad it’s different. My brother and my uncle are both settled in Thailand and St Andrew’s Night there is a seriously big occasion.
The Bangkok St Andrew’s Society dates back to 1890, when Thailand was still known as Siam (and I reckon, surely around about the time Anna must have met the King there). The St Andrew’s Ball is the culmination of the year’s Scottish-themed events hosted by the Society, which include a Burns’ Supper and a Highland Games. Guests are met by the current Chieftan, and in true White Heather Club style, given a sprig of heather by a girl in a white dress with a tartan sash.
Once everyone has arrived, the Chieftan is then formally piped in. The national anthem of Thailand opens proceedings, followed by a rendition of 'God Save theQueen’. Next, there are a few speeches, including one from the British Ambassador. 'Flower of Scotland' usually features in an interval between words, and the speeches culminate in the saying of the Selkirk Grace.
Over 1,000 people from all over the world, though primarily from South East Asia, attend the ball – we’re not talking a wee do down the local club, you understand. The Graham Geddes Band fly all the way from Aberdeen to play for the ceilidh – and have done for the last twelve years.
Tongues oiled by uisge beatha, there’s a lot of chat around the tables, but the dancing is the main event.
On the night itself, the dancing, like the occasion, starts out very formally. But as the hours fly by and the participants quench their thirst by drinking deep of the water of life the dancing carries on into the wee small hours. Stovies are served about one in the morning, and breakfast at six.
You can find out more about the Bangkok St Andrews Society at their website.
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