Have you ever dreamed of visiting the mystic land of Scotland, but either don’t have the vacation budget and/or desire to leave the States? There’s an option for you. The Northeast Florida Scottish Games and Festival brings a “Wee Bit o’ Scotland” to the greater Jacksonville area the last Saturday in February, from 9am-10pm.
The history of the Highland Games can be traced back for well over a thousand years. The biggest gatherings were those of the military where the commanding officers, like the Clan Chiefs of old, saw the advantages of encouraging sports and pastimes which kept their men fit, agile, and strong for war. Piping and dancing in particular were practiced as a form of relaxation wherever the regiments went.
Not only can you watch the athletes compete in the exciting Highland Games, the pipe and drum bands march, but you can also visit Scottish clans, eat authentic food, visit a petting zoo complete with Scottish animals and shop at one of the many vendors. You can even embrace your inner swashbuckler and don some gear and learn how to fence with the Jacksonville Fencing Club.
Many think of Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter and Highlander, but Scotland is so much more. The country is one of the most diverse and beautiful lands I have ever visited. From the gentle rolling hills in the central lowlands to the rugged highlands, the sweeping landscapes invite you to travel back in time to a land inhabited by Vikings, Romans and noble clansmen.
The Scottish Games and Festival offers attendees who have never visited Scotland the opportunity to experience the wonderful culture and heritage without leaving home. A big part of the Games are the clan displays and the opening ceremonies in which all the clan members march in their tartan kilts alongside the pipe and drum bands. A tartan is a particular weave of woolen cloth that is often associated with the modern use of the word plaid.
The clan (Gaelic word for children) system arose in Scotland around the 11th century, and evolved into a complex society. Each clan was ruled by a Chief. While many of the clansmen were likely to be blood relations, others might be tenants of the clan’s lands; smaller families or clans (septs) would put themselves under the protection of the larger clan. The clan system was based on the economics of the times and functioned, for better or worse, much like a family business.
The clan names which are in use today have come down from the founders of the royal dynasties of the Picts, the Scots, and the Vikings in the Highlands as well as the noble families of the Britons, Hemish, Normans, Angles, and Saxons in the Lowlands and Borders. These royal dynasties are the ancestors of the Scots.
There is so much to do and see at the Games, but a big draw is the vendors. Not only can you enjoy traditional Scottish food such as a fried Mars bar or a Scotch egg, but you can visit with genealogy experts and discover your ancestral history. Afterwards, you can visit with the numerous clan displays around the arena and shop for your clan items, including kilts and dresses.
Makes plans now to discover Scotland for the day on Saturday, February 25 at the Clay County Fairgrounds in Green Cove Springs. For more information on this family friendly event, please visit www.neflgames.com.