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Why does Scotland celebrate St Andrew's Day today - and which other countries is he the patron saint of?

Google has marked November 30 - St. Andrews Day - with a commemorative Google Doodle featuring the Loch Ness Monster.

St. Andrew's Day (or in Scottish Gaelic 'Là Naomh Anndrais') is a bank holiday in Scotland, marking the country's patron saint.

St Andrew: Who was he?

St. Andrew, according to Christianity's teachings, was one of Jesus Christ's apostles, the twelve followers chosen by him.

St Andrew  Photo: University of St Andrew's Special Collection

He was born in Bethsaida, in Galilee, now part of Israel. His remains were moved 300 years after his death to Constantinople, now Istanbul, by the Emperor Constantine.

He was revered in Scotland from around 1,000 AD but didn't become its official patron saint until the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320.

Like Jesus, Andrew died a martyr, and was crucified in Greece on an x-shaped cross in 60 AD, rather than the 'T' shape cross that Jesus was crucified on. This type of cross is also known as a saltire - the symbol that makes up the Scottish flag.

The city of St Andrew's in Scotland

St Andrew's links with Scotland come from the Pictish King Oengus I, who built a monastery in what is now the town of St Andrews - where the Scottish university now stands - after the relics of the saint were brought to the town in the eighth century.

But he was made the patron saint of Scotland after the king's descendant, Oengus II, prayed to St. Andrew on the eve of a crucial battle against English warriors from Northumberland, around 20 miles east of Edinburgh.

Legend has it that, heavily outnumbered, Oengus II told St. Andrew that he would become the patron saint of Scotland if he were granted victory. On the day of the battle, clouds are said to have formed a saltire in the sky, and Oengus's army of Picts and Scots were victorious.

St Andrew’s was a popular medieval pilgrimage site up until the 16th century - where the supposed remains of the saint including a tooth, kneecap, arm and finger bone were kept.

In 1870, the Archbishop of Amalfi sent an apparent piece of the saint's shoulder blade to Scotland, where it has since been stored in St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh. The other relics were destroyed in the Scottish Reformation.

The Saltire flag - a white cross on a blue background - is said to have come from this divine intervention and has been used to represent Scotland since 1385.

St. Andrew's Day Bank holiday

Crucifixion of St. Andrew, by Juan Correa de Vivar (1540 - 1545)Crucifixion of St. Andrew, by Juan Correa de Vivar (1540 - 1545) November 30, 60AD is supposedly the date that St. Andrew was crucified, which is why the patron saint's day falls on this date each year, although it is the following Monday if a Saturday or Sunday.

In 2006 it was made a bank holiday in Scotland, and has traditionally been a day off for students of St. Andrews University.

While St. Andrew's Day in Scotland and St. Patrick's Day in Northern Ireland are bank holidays, St. George's Day in England and St. David's Day in Wales are not.

The day is usually marked with a celebration of Scottish culture, including dancing, food and music, and both the British Prime Minister and Scotland's First Minister have St. Andrew's Day messages.

St Andrew is not just the patron saint of Scotland

St Andrew is also the patron saint of Greece, Russia, Amalfi in Italy and Barbados where St Andrew's Day is celebrated as the national day of Independence on the Carribbean island.

Barbados Coat of Arms features a cross of St Andrew at the topThe Barbados Coat of Arms features a cross of St Andrew at the top

As the patron saint of Barbados, Saint Andrew is celebrated in a number of Bajan symbols including the cross formation of the Barbadian Coat of Arms, and the country's national honours system which styles persons as Knights or Dames of St. Andrew.

St Andrew is also the patron saint of the Order of the Thistle, one of the highest ranks of chivalry in the world, second only to the Order of the Garter.

He also keeps busy as the patron saint of fishmongers, fishermen, women wanting to be mothers, singers, spinsters, maidens, sore throats and gout.

November 30th also holds significance in other countries. In parts of eastern and central Europe, including Romania, Russia, Austria, Germany and Poland, the date is associated with single girls' future husbands.

In Romania, it is customary for young women to put 41 grains of wheat beneath their pillow before they go to sleep, and if they dream that someone is coming to steal their grains that means that they are going to get married next year.

Other traditions involve pouring wax through a keyhole into cold water, with the resulting shape determining a girl's future husband's profession.

• 35 great quotes about Scotland and the Scots

Google's Doodle and the Loch Ness Monster

Google has a long tradition of St. Andrew's Day doodles, and every year but one since 2009 it has had one.

This year's design features the legendary Loch Ness Monster (also known as Nessie), briefly appearing out of a saltire lake before disappearing.

St. Andrews Day Google DoodleSt. Andrews Day Google Doodle  Photo: Google

The Loch Ness monster, a single (or family of) long-necked creature inhabiting the 22-square-mile loch south-west of Inverness, has had many reported sightings but is believed by many in the scientific community to be a myth.

However, the long-running mystery has become an integral part of Scottish culture.

Google's Doodle blog states: "Saint Andrew’s Day is a time to celebrate all things Scottish, with parties, kilts, and of course, the flying of the iconic blue-and-white Saltire.

"We went in search of one of Scotland's most reclusive citizens this year and even they have come out to play today, as seen in our animated Doodle by Sophie Diao."

Past St Andrew's Day Google Doodles

Google reliably publishes St. Andrew's Day Doodles, although 2015's is only the second animated one. They have ranged from 2009's Edinburgh Castle to 2012's depiction of a lion leaning against Hadrian's Wall.

St. Andrew's Day Google Doodle 20082008

St. Andrew's Day Google Doodle 20092009

St. Andrew's Day Google Doodle 20102010

St. Andrew's Day Google Doodle 20122012

St. Andrew's Day Google Doodle 20132013

St. Andrew's Day Google Doodle 20142014

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#StAndrewsDay on Twitter

#StAndrewsDay Tweets

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