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Saint Lucy's Day
"Night walks with a heavy step
Round yard and hearth,
As the sun departs from earth,
Shadows are brooding.
There in our dark house,
Walking with lit candles,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!
~ Traditional (Swedish translation)
Are you mad about saffron? Saint Lucy's Day is a yuletide feast day, celebrated mainly in Scandinavia and Italy, but anticipated in many places for the appearance of the swirled and delicious St. Lucy's Buns known as Lassekatter which get their golden color and distinctive flavouring from saffron threads, derived from the crocus sativus flower. In the olden days, Saint Lucy's feast coincided with the longest, darkest day of the year, but when the calendar changed from the unreformed Julian to today's version, her day ended up on December 13th. Today almost all saffron grows in a belt from Spain in the west to Kashmir in the east. However, saffron growing is also historically associated with Cornwall, seen in legacy recipes and tastes for Cornish saffron buns and saffron cakes. Food historians trace saffron cultivation in Cornwall to the 14th century, when Cornwall had a healthy tin trade with its Spanish neighbours. There are even records of saffron fields in Launcells near Bude, Fowey, Penryn, Feock and Gerrans! As the world's most expensive spice, it takes roughly 200 flowers to produce just 1 gram of saffron!
Saint Lucy's Day, Saffron Bun Day, is a yuletide feast day celebrated mainly in Scandinavia and Italy, is known for the beautiful Lassekatter (St. Lucy's Buns) or saffransbullar (saffron buns), golden-coloured buns which use saffron threads as both coloring and flavouring.
Saffron's aroma is often described by connoisseurs as reminiscent of metallic honey with grassy or hay-like notes, while its taste has also been noted as hay-like and sweet.
Saffron comes from the dried stigmas of a variety of crocus (Crocus sativus) flower. Iran is the world's biggest supplier, but other countries producing significant amounts of saffron include Spain, Italy, Greece, India and Morocco.
Saffron is nearly as expensive as gold. About 200,000 crocus flowers are required to produce 1 kg (2.2 lb) of saffron. Harvesting the stigma is tedious and can only be done by hand first thing in the morning before it gets too hot.
Saffron has a long history of use in traditional medicine, as a fabric dye, and in perfumery.
This tartan, designed by Carol A.L. Martin, references the flower from which saffron is obtained, with the orange-golden threads of the stigma running through the varied purple hues.
For more fascinating saffron facts, click the saffron!