The St. Andrew’s Ball - Cultures Coming Together to Celebrate Scotland

The United States, as you know, boasts a cultural heritage from countries all over the world.  The St. Andrew’s Ball, which I attended with Robyn recently, is much the same.  It is held globally – any place where Scottish people reside can be home to this celebration of Scottish heritage and traditions.  The event here in Seoul was no different.  There were Koreans, Americans, Brits, Canadians, Irish, Bulgarians, and Indonesians in attendance.  

(From left) Ambassadors from Bulgaria, Ireland, Peru, the U.S., and the U.K. at the St. Andrew’s Ball

A great group photo at the Chieftain’s table

Although I have no Scottish ancestry, we do have some family who were originally from the United Kingdom, and my mother’s family name is Bridges, which is a British name.  

The Ball is open to anyone, and volunteers willing to roll up their sleeves and help out are encouraged to do so.  The event has been taking place in Korea for 40 years.  There used to be a curfew in Seoul, so the organizers added a breakfast at around 3:00 a.m. to get around the curfew issue so they weren’t forced to end the event early.  This tradition continues today.  My wife Robyn was game for trying to stay up that late until I reminded her that she had a flight the next day!  Maybe next year!  

Toasting this fun and wonderful tradition!

Traditional Scottish fare was served, including haggis.  I was told by Brian McEachen, Chieftain of the event, that the haggis is provided by a member of the St. Andrew’s Society who is a butcher here in Seoul.  Mrs. McEachen addressed the haggis by reciting a Robert Burns poem called the “Ode to a Haggis.”  It was a great rendition of a very unique cultural tradition.  She performed brilliantly and the room was soon filled with applause!   

This is what haggis looks like!

The bagpiper was of Korean ancestry and wore sunglasses and played for the first dance, and he also piped us in to dinner.  A unique twist one could probably find only here in Seoul!    There were other Koreans at the event, and  I even met a new friend from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Attendees were drawn by this terrific aspect of the Scottish culture of getting together with friends and family to have a good time dancing, drinking, eating, and having a laugh. 
Guests in kilts!

British Ambassador Charles Hay also in a kilt!

The speech is usually given by someone who is not Scottish, and this year’s honors went to British Ambassador Charles Hay, who was born in Scotland and lived there for five years before moving to England.  Former U.S. Ambassador to Korea, Kathleen Stephens, has also spoken at the Ball in past years.

In addition to trying the haggis, I also tried the dancing (only one dance!).  The one dance I participated in was a little like what is termed square dancing in the U.S., although I felt square dancing is a little bit easier as you are explicitly told what to do next by the square dance caller.  (I was lost on the dance floor!)  

The Koreans, the Scots, and the other guests enjoyed all aspects of the evening.  The Irish Ambassador’s attendance reminded me of Irish culture and its influence in the U.S. as well as the similarities and differences among all of these English speaking countries.   
Can you feel the Scottish vibe?

A great time was had by all, and I look forward to next year’s St. Andrew’s Ball, although I’m not quite ready to wear a kilt just yet! 

1 comment:

  1. The Lipperts are always welcome to St. Andrew's Society of Seoul events. Next time, two dances and then you will be hooked.


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