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November 2017

When to wear a Kilt - December Edition

By Erik Munnrson November 29, 2017

 DECEMBER


 Handsome kilt outfits for the holidays!

 

Kilt Up for the Whole Month!

Suffice to say, you can certainly wear your finest Celtic highland wear to any number of festivities this time of year -- from office holiday parties and family gatherings to religious observances and New Year's.


A good many of our customers use the Holidays as a “pull the trigger” reason to get a complete Prince Charlie or Argyll package, or to spruce up their gear with a new sporran or other accessories. And if you’d like to give celtic gifts for Christmas, Channukah or Yule, we’d certainly appreciate it!


Here are some of the best days for kilts in December...

 

 

 

 Repeal Day celebrates the end of Prohibition


Repeal Day - Dec. 5


Fancy a wee dram of whisky or a pint of stout? Then throw on your best drinking kilt and raise your glass today! Repeal Day commemorates the end of Prohibition.


As you probably know, the 18th Amendment, which went into effect on January 16, 1919, restricted the legal manufacture, transportation, sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Prohibition was brought about by a popular movement led by the American Christian Women's Temperance Union. They had good intentions -- to end crime, illness and domestic abuse caused by alcoholism. However, legislating morality backfired severely as amateur bootleggers, home distillers and eventually big-time organized crime got into the the booze racket. It was the age of the speak-easy and bathtub gin.


After the stock market crash of 1929, booze crime became even more difficult to stop and the 18th amendment became more and more unpopular and virtually impossible to enforce. In 1933, Congress passed the 21st Amendment, which essentially repealed the 18th. On December 5, 1933, Utah voted its approval which achieved the 3/4 state majority needed for the law.




Pearl Harbor Day commemorates the attack of Dec. 7, 1941


Pearl Harbor Day - Dec. 7


On December 8, 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously called December seventh "..a day that will live in infamy".


Of course he was referring to the aerial attack on the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by the Empire of Japan. The attack began at dawn and crippled the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Over 2,400 American servicemen and 68 civilians were killed. Five of the eight battleships in port were sunk or sinking, and virtually all ships were damaged. However, the Japanese attack was a failure. The all-important American aircraft carriers were not in port, and the attack steeled American resolve to fight and win the Second World War.


On Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, U.S. flags are to be flown at half staff. Some communities still mark the day with public events. Whether yours does or not, this is a good day to thank members of “the greatest generation” for their service and sacrifices.



Jewish kilts for Celtic Channukah


Chanukah - Date Varies


Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights (also spelled Chanuka and Hanukkah), celebrates victory and freedom from religious persecution (hey, that sounds Scottish!).


In the year 167 B.C., a group of fighters known as the Maccabees finally drove off the Greek occupiers of Jerusalem. In order to rededicate the holy temple after the fighting, it was necessary to relight the great Menorah. However, the Maccabees found only one small jar of oil --  enough to keep the Menorah lit for a day. When the oil lasted a full eight days, it was declared a miracle and the event has been celebrated ever since.


Chanukah is a happy and joyous occasion for Jews around the world, including Scotland. Many Jewish families trace their history back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The earliest official Jewish congregation in Edinburgh was founded in 1817. As a land dedicated to personal freedom, Scotland held certain advantages over neighboring England, such as the fact that university students were not required to swear a religious oath. Scottish cities, especially Glasgow, became refuges for Jews escaping persecution in the Russian empire. By the early 20th century, you could find men in the Highlands who spoke Scots English, Yiddish and Gaelic!




Jewish kilts for Celtic Channukah


 


Many people of Jewish and Celtic descent, enjoy wearing the Davidson tartan (making reference to Malkhut Beit David (מלכות בית דוד) the "House of David"). The St. Andrews and Clark Ancient tartans are also popular Jewish kilt options since the blue and white colors are reminiscent of the tekhelet indigo color used in the tallit (prayer shawl).




Fires are lit during a winter solstice yule vigil

Winter Solstice - Dec. 21 or 22


The Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, marks the beginning of winter in the northern hemisphere. In fact the sun never even rises at the North Pole.


For thousands of years, the Winter Solstice has been a time of feasting and celebration, particularly in Norse and Germanic lands (including Viking-contacted areas of Scotland and Ireland). The ancients would celebrate the return of the sun and the promise of new life in the coming year. The Norse name for this holiday, Yule (or Jul) is retained in the Anglo-Saxon and English word “Yuletide.”


Many folk customs of Yule were long ago incorporated into Christmas celebrations. For example, feasting (including a pork dish), “Wassailing” (going door-to-door singing songs in exchange for drink and food), gift giving, the burning of the yule log and decorating with evergreens such a wreaths (a symbol of the circle of the year).


Many Pagans of different traditions celebrate the holiday today. And many civic groups hold secular celebrations such as concerts, fairs and bonfire parties.




Celtic Christmas Cross


Christmas Day - Dec 25


Of course, Celtic folk like to kilt up for Christmas -- whether it is to go to church to celebrate the birth of the Christian savior, or to attend a secular Christmas party. Oddly enough, Christmas was not a big holiday in Scotland until very recently. The real Scottish winter celebration is Hogmanay, which we’ll discuss below.


Clan Claus Celtic Santa


Did you know there is an official Santa Claus tartan?

Registered August 5, 2011, the organization known as ‘Clan Claus’ has its very own tartan available to member Santas. We here at USA Kilts are very proud that Rocky was named an Honorary Elf some years ago! Click here to learn more about how this group combines their love of Christmas and Celtic traditions.







Straw boys on Wren day in Ireland


St. Stephen's Day - Dec. 26


St. Stephen's Day (Lá Fhéile Stiofáin) is an Irish national holiday, also known as the Day of the Wren (Lá an Dreoilín). It commemorates the life of St Stephen, a Christian martyr.


St Stephen was stoned to death sometime around 33 CE. Irish legend has it that he was betrayed by a wren while in hiding. A more localized legend tells of the ill-fated St Stephen's Day raid, sometime around 750 CE. Irish warriors sneaking up on a Viking camp were betrayed by the noise of a wren eating crumbs on a drum head. Either way, wrens got a bad rep from these stories and St. Stephen’s Day once included the custom of boys hunting and throwing stones at the birds.


There is a strong mumming tradition for Wren Day in many parts of Ireland. Mummers, or “wren boys” often dress in colorful costumes of straw and ribbons. Traditionally, a killed wren would be tied to a stick and paraded about town and people would give the boys gifts. Today the gifts are usually money -- donations towards a public dance, a school or local charity. In some areas of Ireland, the boys may dress as girls or women.


St. Stephen’s is also a traditional day for enjoying a seasonal Pantomime. Pantomimes are December season musical-comedy productions for the whole family, popular throughout the UK. Usually based loosely on fairy tales, they incorporate audience participation, cross-dressing, slap-stick, double entendre and references to recent events.

This is an ideal day to enjoy your Irish kilt and accessories!




Kilt up for Hogmanay!

Hogmanay - Dec 31 -  New Year's Eve


We actually have a whole blog post about Hogmanay. It’s a HUGE deal in Scotland.


Briefly, Hogmanay (Scots: [ˌhɔɡməˈneː], English: /ˌhɒɡməˈneɪ/ HOG-mə-NAY) is the Scots word for the last day of the year and synonymous with the New Year. It includes celebrations the night of New year’s Eve as well as continuing parties and socializing from New Year’s Day through January 2, which is a Bank Holiday, or longer.




 


 

Meet the Screaming Orphans!

By Erik Munnrson November 14, 2017

 

To further our commitment to Celtic culture, USA Kilts is teaming up with musicians to advance the spread of Celtic music across the globe.


We've partnered with Ireland’s own The Screaming Orphans to give away some great music!
Every customer who places and order through the USA Kilts website will get an email with a link to download 5 Screaming Orphans songs for freeThis promotion runs from November 10th 2017 to Jan 15th, 2018.

 



We sat down with the ladies of The Screaming Orphans and asked them a few questions...


USAK: When / Where did the band form and what is the origin story?


TSO: Well, you could say the band formed when we were born as we are four sisters. Our mother sang with her two brothers in a Céilí band (The Richard Fitzgerald Céilí Band) but when she started a family she left her brothers’ band but still loved to sing. As we grew up and showed some musical talent, we became her backing band for gigs in the local hotels. So I would say the band formed as soon as we were able to play a tune together.

 

USAK: What age did you start playing music?


TSO: I think we all started playing classical piano at about 7 years of age and Angela and Gráinne started violin lessons at 9. We started playing drums, bass, guitar in our teenage years.

 

USAK: Who were your musical influences?


TSO: Very much our Dad, our mother and uncle Richie. Our mother never stopped singing around the house, she has an incredible repertoire of songs. Our uncle toured with the great Scottish accordion player Jimmy Shand in Ireland when he was a teenager which resulted in him being a life-long lover of Scottish music, which in turn influenced us as kids as he taught us the tunes and songs when we were small. Our Dad loved old American Country music so we heard a lot of Hank Snow, Hank Williams, Boxcar Willie, he also loved John Mc Cormack. I have to mention Irish D.J. Larry Gogan and his Golden Hour, we never missed his programme. Later on, when Angela was starting the bass, she listened incessantly to The Pixies, Talking Heads & Fleetwood Mac.

 




USAK: What brand / model instruments do you / the band play?


TSO: Angela usually plays her 1973 Fender Precision Bass guitar. Her violin is grandfather’s. Gráinne generally plays a Taylor or a Breedlove acoustic ….until she puts a hole in them. She has a Takamine acoustic guitar at home in Ireland that she loves but won’t take it on the road. In the U.S , Joan plays a $250 (ebay) Sonor kit, at home she has a Yamaha 9000 kit she got years ago. She has an Albert Alfonso bodhran. Marie Therese plays a small Paolo Soprani piano accordion bought on ebay for $500 and her keyboard of choice is the Korg SV1.

 

USAK: What was the funniest thing that happened to you on the road?


TSO: Most of the stuff that happens to us on the road is not very funny at all …….maybe get back to us in a few years and we’ll have a different answer for you then.





USAK: What is your favorite song to play live?


TSO: It’s always the latest one so at this time it’s a song called Shine. We haven’t recorded it yet but plan to do so in the next few weeks. Now if you were to ask Joan what her least favourite song is, it would always be the same answer……..Whiskey In The Jar.

 

USAK: How important is it to have Celtic influence in your music?


TSO: When we were teenagers, our prime focus was rock/pop music but when we came to the U.S and got involved in the Celtic music scene over here we re-discovered our love for the Celtic music of our childhood. You take for granted what is part of you and when we realized how much people here love and celebrate their heritage it woke us up and made us realize that the old songs from home are dying out so we needed to perform them to keep them alive. There is a great effort going on in Ireland at the moment to pass on the tunes and to some extent traditional songs but the ballads are being neglected and the ballads are the songs of the working class people celebrating their areas and events so they have to be kept alive also. Some of our original pop songs are now starting to have more of a Celtic twist so it’s an ongoing journey for us.

 

USAK: Name ONE Other band in the Celtic Music scene who you think are doing an awesome job or are talented and tell us why you feel that way.


TSO: This is an easy question and we have 3 names……. Albannach, Rathkeltair and Old Blind Dogs. We consider ourselves extremely lucky to get to share stages with them. They are super talented and hard working and there’s not one ego amongst them. They inspire us and when we play with them we don’t just settle for a good show, we strive for excellence as all 3 bands never fail to raise the bar every time they perform.

 

USAK: What do you do when you’re not performing or on tour?


TSO: A whole lot of nothing.





USAK: What Social Media do you use the most if fans want to connect with the band?


TSO: Facebook is the only one we bother with. We are not that big on social media but we are forced into it because of the band. Still, it’s a great promotional tool so I can’t knock it.

 

USAK: What are the future plans for the band?


TSO: To keep writing, performing and getting better.

 

USAK: Any words of advice for budding musicians?


TSO: Never give up. The minute you stop is the minute you fail.

 

That sounds like great advice for more than just musicians!  To see when the band will be playing near you, visit:  www.thescreamingorphans.com

 

This year, Honor Vets of the Past and Help vets of the Present

By Erik Munnrson November 9, 2017

 We can’t improve on these words or pictures…

 

 


"Without heroes, we are all plain people, and don't know how far we can go." - Bernard Malamud



 

 


"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here." - Abraham Lincoln

 

 

 


"Valor is stability, not of legs and arms, but of courage and the soul." - Michel de Montaigne

 

 

 

 


"In war, there are no unwounded soldiers." - José Narosky

 

 


"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation." - President George Washington

 

 

 



“It’s about how we treat our veterans every single day of the year. It’s about making sure they have the care they need and the benefits that they’ve earned when they come home. It’s about serving all of you as well as you’ve served the United States of America.” – Barack Obama

 

 


"We remember those who were called upon to give all a person can give, and we remember those who were prepared to make that sacrifice if it were demanded of them in the line of duty, though it never was. Most of all, we remember the devotion and gallantry with which all of them ennobled their nation as they became champions of a noble cause."
- Ronald Reagan

 

To find out what you can do to support American Veterans, visit these organizations:

 

Wounded Warriors - "provides free programs and services to address the needs of wounded warriors and fill gaps in government care...now serving tens of thousands."

 

The USO - "has stood by our troops through every step of their service...from the day of their deployment through the process of rehabilitation from an operation or invisible wounds, all the way through to reintegration, we're there for soldiers and their families."

 

The Fisher House Foundation - "a network of comfort homes where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment."

 

Team Rubicon - "providing disaster relief to those affected by natural disasters...by pairing the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders, medical professionals, and technology solutions."

 

We were not sure if we wanted to discuss our products today. However, since we do have many vets and service members as customers, we decided to at least remind all of you that we happily offer a 10% Veteran's Discount with ID. It’s a small gesture, perhaps, but we very much appreciate your service. We are honored that you choose to use our products to show your pride. Thank You.


Sincerely,


Rocky and the team