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Walk Sets Tone For Holiday Season

Alexandria’s holiday season officially kicks off Saturday, as the Campagna Center and the St. Andrew’s Society of Washington, D.C. celebrate the 32nd year of the Scottish Christmas Walk.

The parade honors the City’s Scottish founders, its rich heritage and way of life. In 1669, Scotsman John Alexander purchased the land of present-day Alexandria and laid plans for a thriving port.

Shipping merchants lead by Scotsmen William Ramsey and John Carlyle helped establish the town and in 1749 named Alexandria in honor of John Alexander. Other Scottish merchants and businessmen continued to settle in Alexandria and were part of this seaport, known as the “handsomest town in Virginia.”

Alexandrians remembered their transplanted forefathers in 1969, when the Alexandria Community YMCA (now the Campagna Center) collaborated with the St. Andrew’s Society to create the Scottish Christmas Walk as a gift to the city.

The event thanked the neighbors for supporting the children and families served by The Campagna Center. Today, this holiday tradition reaches far beyond the borders of Alexandria. It has become an East Coast event, attracting crowds of more than 20,000. “Cead Mile Failte,” a Hundred Thousand Welcomes, the sign of the thistle and heather have all become the symbols for this celebration.

VOLUNTEERS FROM CAMPAGNA Center produce the weekend’s activities, including the traditional Walk, or parade, complete with bagpipers, drummers, Scottie dogs, local celebrities, elected officials and over 100 units of Scottish clans dressed in their colorful tartans.

Leading off this year is the Alexandria Police Honor Guard, St. Andrew’s Society of Washington, D.C. and The Lord Provost John Letford of Dundee, Scotland, one of Alexandria’s sister cities, this year’s honored guest.

The Walk begins at Wilkes and South Pitt streets heading north to Cameron Street for one block west and then south on South Saint Asaph Street, where it ends at Wolfe Street. Following the Walk, every bagpiper comes together to harmonize in a massed band performance.

Santa Claus and his antique fire truck rings in the holiday season as the Walk’s caboose.

Weekend activities begin on Dec. 5 and Dec. 6, with holiday shopping at A Christmas Marketplace and Café, and Heather and Greens sales.

On the evening of Dec. 6, the Taste of Scotland offers nearly 500 guests a taste of rare scotches. Revelers rise early on Dec. 7 to enjoy a full day of Scottish flavor with the Scottish Christmas Walk, Wreath Laying Ceremony, Holiday Designer Tour of Homes, and the Royal Scottish Country Dancers Tea Dance.

The Scottish Christmas Walk weekend is one of the largest fundraising activities for the Campagna Center’s programs. These programs include Alexandria Head Start; Campagna Kids, before- and after-school daycare program; tutoring for elementary students reading below grade level; youth services which address the needs of runaways, and the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP).

For 57 years, The Center’s mission has been to strengthen families and create safe havens for children to flourish.

Schedule of Events

Thursday, Dec. 5

Noon-5 p.m.

A Christmas Marketplace. Vendors sell holiday gift wares in a boutique setting. The Campagna Center, 418 S. Washington St.

Heather and Greens Sale. A touch of heather and greens enhance holiday decorations with a Scottish flair. Purchase fresh heather bundles or a variety of wreaths, garlands, flatwoods, paperwhites and much more. The Campagna Center, 418 S. Washington St.

Friday, Dec. 6

10 a.m.-5 p.m.

A Christmas Marketplace. Vendors sell holiday gift wares in a boutique setting. The Campagna Center, 418 S. Washington St.

Heather and Greens Sale. A touch of heather and greens enhance holiday decorations with a Scottish flair. Purchase fresh heather bundles or a variety of wreaths, garlands, flatwoods, paperwhites and much more. The Campagna Center, 418 S. Washington St.

7:30 p.m.-10 p.m.

A Taste of Scotland. A tasting featuring hard-to-find, rare scotches direct from Scotland distilleries. Attended by nearly 500 guests, including the Lord Provost of Dundee, Scotland. Advance tickets required. $50 per person in advance, $65 for patron ticket and $85 for premier patron ticket. The Campagna Center, 418 S. Washington St.

Saturday, Dec. 7

9 a.m.

Wreath Laying Ceremony

9 a.m.-5 p.m.

A Christmas Marketplace. Vendors sell holiday gift wares in a boutique setting. The Campagna Center, 418 S. Washington St.

Heather and Greens Sale. A touch of heather and greens enhance holiday decorations with a Scottish flair. Purchase fresh heather bundles or a variety of wreaths, garlands, flatwoods, paperwhites and much more. The Campagna Center, 418 S. Washington St.

10:30 a.m.

Scottish Walk Parade. Over 100 Scottish Clans, pipe and drum bands, Scottish dancers, re-enactment groups, Scottie dog groups, dignitaries and, of course, Santa Claus will march down the cobblestone streets of Old Town. Beginning at the corner of Wilkes and South Pitt Streets in Old Town and ending at The Campagna Center.

11 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Holiday Designer Tour of Homes. Stroll through lovely homes of historic importance dressed up for the holidays by acclaimed interior designers and local florists. Tickets available by calling The Campagna Center at 703-549-0111 or at any of the homes on the day of the tour. Advanced tickets are $15. Tickets purchased day of event are $20.

Noon

Concert of Parade Bagpipers

1-3 p.m.

Scottish Dancers, Santa and carolers at the Marketplace Café