Alexandria's Scottish Christmas Walk, 1999 Photo: Lisa Helfort
Alexandria Scottish Christmas Walk
On the first Saturday in December, Old Town
Alexandria is transformed by the sight of colorful tartans
representing Scottish clans, light-footed country dancers, and the
mournful wail of bagpipes. More than 30,000 people attend the
festivities that are organized by 200 volunteers.
The Scottish Christmas Walk has grown from a small
and informal parade to an entire weekend filled with events and
festivities for all ages. The parade was begun in 1969 by the
Alexandria Community Y (now known as the Campagna Center) to kick
off the holiday season with a celebration honoring the city's
Scottish founders, its rich heritage, and unique quality of
In 1669, Scotsman John Alexander purchased the land
that is now present-day Alexandria and laid plans for a thriving
port. Shipping merchants, led by Scotsmen William Ramsey and John
Carlyle, helped establish the town, incorporated in 1749 and named
Alexandria in honor of John Alexander. Other Scottish merchants and
business people continued to settle in this dynamic colonial
Over the years, the original six units of bagpipers
have grown to 125. Also marching in the parade are Scottish
military regiments, highlanders, school bands, citizen groups and
associations. The grand marshal leads the regal clans and floats
filled with volunteers and children, who participate in Campagna
Center programs; dignitaries, who often include the Lord Provost of
Dundee (Alexandria's Scottish sister city) and the British
Ambassador to the United States, and local and regional political
leaders, who ride in vintage cars loaned by antique car club
members. Traditionally, as the parade passes, the crowd joins in at
the end to walk the route to city hall for a short ceremony where
everyone is welcomed and encouraged to participate in the weekend's
activities in Old Town, and to visit the Campagna Center.
The late Elizabeth Anne Campagna, with a group of
friends and associates, began the Christmas Walk. She is remembered
as a passionate, visionary leader who always saw the best in people
and opportunities to make things better. The Campagna Center serves
the most vulnerable members of the community- its children-through
programs and outreach activities, which include Head Start, a
before-and-after school care program, a shelter, and a volunteer
program for seniors.
The St. Andrew's Society of Washington, D.C., has
been a major participant in the Scottish Christmas Walk since it
began. The society was founded by William Hunter at Alexandria's
Old Presbyterian Meeting House in 1760. As a charitable and social
organization, the society's was formed to provide assistance to
Scots, lineal descendants of Scots, their widows and orphans, and
to perpetuate Scottish traditions and culture.
Documentation includes a text report on the walk; a
1999 catalogue and brochure of the Scottish Walk parade and weekend
events; the Campagna Center 1999 annual report; and a video of the
Campagna Center's Scottish Christmas Walk.
Originally submitted by: John W. Warner,Senator.
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.