"The Scottish Banner," May 2016 issue

Canadians Take to the Ice – in their Kilts!

In January 2015, in five cities across Canada, hundreds of kilted skaters braved 30-below temperatures to celebrate the bicentennial of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald.  This year, they were back again, celebrating Scottish heritage with bare knees and ice. And as Canada approaches its 150th birthday next year, plans are already in the works to make the kilt skate an annual event.


“Sir John A’s Great Canadian Kilt Skate has grown to become an annual tradition that is both uniquely Canadian and undeniably Scottish,” says Kevin MacLeod, Chair of the Scottish Society of Ottawa, which organizes the national event. “It highlights Canada’s nordicity in a way similar to the New Year’s Day polar bear dips in some communities.”


For the 2016 event, participants didn’t face the subarctic temperatures that greeted the inaugural kilt skate the previous year. In fact, the weather through most of January was so mild that Ottawa’s Rideau Canal Skateway was not yet open to the public when the kilt skate date came around. The organizers moved the event to an outdoor rink near the Aberdeen Pavilion, and served Sir John A. birthday cake and hot chocolate to the skaters.


Calgary’s skate this year was once again held at the Olympic Plaza, organized by the Calgary and High River Optimist clubs.  The St. Andrew’s Society of Montreal gathered once more at the skating rink in the Old Port, where Scottish music was piped over the public address system. 


But the bragging rights as the kilt skate capital of Canada for 2016 went to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where the local highland dancing association managed to encourage skaters to come out in large numbers during the city’s annual winter festival.


The Scottish Society of Ottawa is reaching out to other Scottish organizations across the country and hopes that, for Canada’s 150th birthday, the celebration will be the biggest and best ever. In Ottawa, they hope to return the event to the Rideau Canal Skateway.


For more information on Sir John A’s Great Canadian Kilt skate, or to contact the organizers, go to www.kiltskate.com.