What is Tartan Day in Canada?

In Canada, Tartan Day is an annual celebration of the achievements of more than four million Canadians who hail from Scotland. Officially marked by the federal Government of Canada, Tartan Day originated in the mid-1980s in Nova Scotia and has grown more popular every year, adopted by diaspora around the world since the 1990s.

Tartan Day offers an exciting opportunity to build on these Scottish Connections and celebrate the threads of Scottish influence woven through the fabric of Canadian society.

Niagara Falls illuminated for Tartan Day in Canada

What are the origins of Tartan Day in Canada? 

Where did it all begin? Turn the clock back to a meeting of the Federation of Scottish Clans in Nova Scotia on 9 March 1986. Members put forward the following motion to the Federation:

"That we establish a day known as 'Tartan Day'. This to be a day chosen to promote Scottish Heritage by the most visible means. The wearing of the Scottish attire, especially in places where the kilt is not ordinarily worn, i.e.: work, play or worship."

Starting originally as 'Tartan Day in Nova Scotia', the Federation of Scottish Clans approached every provincial Legislative Assembly, the Parliament of Canada, and other Scottish cultural societies across the country to help establish such a date.

Tartan Day is now marked from coast to coast, and celebrated through a multitude of events that embody the pride and passion of Scotland.

Building our Scottish Connections

Today, our work across Canadian provinces and territories through the Scottish Government Office in Ottawa includes tapping into aspects of Scottish culture that helps Scottish Canadians feel connected to Scotland.

With numerous Tartan Day events held by Scottish societies around the country – from Calgary to Halifax, via Montréal and Toronto – there is no shortage of opportunities to celebrate your Scottish Connections.

In and around Vancouver, British Columbia, thousands celebrate Tartan Day each year and actively raise awareness of the contributions of Scottish Canadians.

In 2024, Tartan Day will be celebrated at the new Scottish Community Centre in Victoria – bringing together bands, clans, and wider diaspora community to celebrate their personal connections to Scotland.

Visit the official website of the Victoria Scottish Community Centre to learn more.

Dressed to Kilt Toronto will also mark Tartan Day with its first-ever Canadian show on April 6, 2024. The Toronto fashion show will embrace Scottish culture, music and fashion. The theme of this year’s show will be “Dress for Adventure – From Caledonia to Canada” and will embrace the influence of the countryside in urban style including tartan, tweed and cashmere.

Tartan Day Dressed to Kilt Toronto
Photo credit: Dressed to Kilt

Discover more about the Dressed to Kilt Toronto show on their website.

Key facts:

  • Over 4.3 million Canadians report Scottish heritage.
  • There are 1380 Canadian domiciled students at Scottish universities.
  • Canada is a top 20 export destination for Scotland.
  • 9,300 jobs are provided by 90 Canadian businesses representing £2,093,000 of Scotland’s turnover. 

Explore your ties to Scotland and meet other members of our global community.