Whether your clan dates back to the 12th century or you’ve never even heard of haggis, there’s plenty to enjoy at the Central Florida Scottish Highland Games. Since their first full-blown event in 1978, the Scottish-American Society of Central Florida has welcomed members of all communities to partake in traditional celebrations on the third weekend of January. Not a Scot? Dinnae fash yersel (don’t worry about it)! Here’s all the lingo you need to know to enjoy the games, no matter what pattern your tartan.
What to Wear
Traditional dress is optional, but you’ll see plenty of participants and attendees decked out in Gaelic garb, as well as vendors selling a range of finery from tartans to tees. Women do not traditionally wear the items below, but rather a bodice and full-length tartan skirt with a sash or shawl secured by a decorative brooch.
Kilt: a knee-length tartan skirt made of wool, secured by a belt and weighted with a decorative pin.
Kilt hose: knee-high woolen socks worn with a cuff at the top; the cuff may hold in place a bit of decorative garter flash or a small, single-edge knife called a sgiahn-dub (pronounced skee-en-DOO).
Ghillies Brogues: leather lace-up shoes with no tongue to facilitate quick drying after a stomp through marshy ground.
Sporran: a pouch that serves as a pocket; can be made simply from leather or be decorated with sliver plate, fur or horse hair.
Bonnet: also known as a tam o’shanter, a woolen cap with a pom-pom in the center.
What to Watch
They’re called the Highland Games for a reason, and there are plenty of opportunities to observe talented athletes, dancers and dogs in action on the field and onstage.
With the exception of archery, athletics for men fall mostly in the category of throwing very heavy things. The stone used in the open stone put (think shot put) weighs between 16 and 22 pounds; the Braemer stone weighs up to 28 pounds; and the handled sphere or block projectile used for the 56-pound weight for distance event weighs in at—you guessed it—56 pounds. Also look for gents tossing hammers, cabers (a trimmed tree up to 22 feet and 180 pounds) or sheafs (16-20 pound burlap bags stuffed with straw, rope or mulch.
Ladies who enjoy running with heavy things are welcome to join in the coed Boulder Boogie (no dancing required, just running with a rock). The competition that attracts the most lassies, however, is the Central Florida Classic Open Championship & Premiership, which attracts dancers from all over the state to compete in solo categories such as the Highland Fling, the Sword Dance, the Scottish Lilt, the Hornpipe and many more on a covered stage not far from the action of athletic competitions.
Not just for show, border collies are working dogs with a long tradition in Scottish culture. Known for their intelligence and obedience, border collies play a crucial role in herding sheep and keeping the flock safe. Kids of all ages will enjoy watching the Craigmalloch Border Collies at work during demonstrations throughout the weekend.
What to Eat and Drink
No Games would be complete without a hearty meal and a pitcher of ale, and the food vendors that travel to Winter Springs each year bring traditional tastes as well as more familiar fare. No matter what you choose, it’ll pair well with an apricot peach ale or a classic red or brown ale from Dunedin Brewery, Florida’s oldest micro-brewery. Soda fans can enjoy an orangey Irn Bru, Scotland’s national drink (after whisky).
Many Scottish delicacies come encased in pastry, such as meat pies, sausage rolls, Cornish pasties (filled with beef, carrots and potatoes) or bridies (filled with beef and onion). Deep fried Scotch eggs are hard boiled eggs wrapped in sausage and breading, and shepherd’s pie isn’t pie at all, but rather a casserole of minced lamb topped with mashed potatoes. Bragging rights to all who try the haggis, a savory pudding made with the lungs, heart and liver of sheep mixed with oatmeal, suet and spices.