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Bagpipers in Scottish regalia march in the Christmas parade
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 life.

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 seaport.

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.

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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.

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