Updated on March 11, 2020 by Mary Bowen
An action packed and unique highland games party is easy to throw with this guide. Celebrate a birthday, a holiday, or throw one just for fun.
Get the party rolling with...
As guests arrive, get the Celtic spirit going with facepainting. Your guests are going to feel like "warrior poets" and true "Scotsmen", plus they will add to the feel of the party becoming a part of the theme. You will need
Encourage your guests to dress in kilts or at least in tartans or plaid by offering a prize for the best dressed clan. Be sure to mention this and that there will be competitions in your invitation so people come prepared. For a sample invitation, click here...
If you keep organized, your party will be a hit. A suggested itinerary is provided below for you to use and/or tweak to fit your party:
1:00 p.m. Party begins with Braveheart facepainting
2:00 p.m. Competitions
Arts - Visual Arts, Performing Arts and Language Arts
Athletics - Highland games
4:00 Dinner and Awards ceremony
To print this sample highland games party itinerary, click here...
Irish stew, Scottish haggis with crackers, English crumpets, and American cheeseburgers-yum, yum...this hardy meal will please the athletes and spectators alike.
Apple pie is a great American dessert option or if it's a birthday party, opt for a cake decorated as an American flag.
Haggis can be bought in a can, heated and served with crackers. If you don't have time to make crumpets, a pancake-like bread, buy some English muffins and serve with jam. This is a fast paced party so it is probably best to have the cheeseburgers ready before the party and kept warm or warmed up in the oven. Keep them simple and only provide ketchup and mustard.
These food choices were inspired by one of our favorite Veggietales videos below! American fare you may wonder? Did you know that Americans from Celtic descent are one of the largest ethnic groups in America? This makes the USA a "Celtic" nation for the purpose of this party. Not living in the US? Well, cheeseburgers and apple pie are delicious.
Another key part of your planning should be the decorations. Your main decorating colors should be blue and white. The colors of the Scottish flag!! Buy some:
A plaid table cloth and a shamrock oxalis center piece would look great.
There are a lot of activities for this party so I've separated them into three groups:
athletics provide the action while the arts are included for entertainment. The
activities follow dinner as a way for the party to wind down and end as you see fit.
The athletics we adapted for this backyard highland games included:
The caber toss is my favorite of all the athletics.
In the caber toss you originally take a 19 foot pole and try to throw it end over end, landing in a 12 o’clock position.
This is obviously very difficult for a person who is 3 foot tall. Only very strong Scots can do this.
To make this activity work, we watered it down to a 5 foot pole instead. This made it much easier for children.
The hammer throw is also a very fun athletic. In the hammer throw you try to throw a hammer the farthest.
To suggest a safer game we used a rubber mallet instead of a hammer. We also made sure there were no:
in front of the person who was throwing.
To throw the “hammer” we held the hammer as a baseball bat and, as we swung, we let the hammer go!!
The weight throw was mounds of fun. In the weight throw you again try to throw a weight the farthest. Originally the weight is 30 pounds.
This game was also watered down to 15 pounds. We used a cast iron tractor piece. Cast iron is a very easy weight because even a small amount of it is surprisingly heavy.
Do three counts. One...between the legs. Two...off to the side. Three...between the legs...and up into the air!
In the sheaf toss you try to throw a burlap sack filled with straw over a stick with a pitchfork.
Whoever gets the burlap sack over the stick and the farthest wins!
The caber toss, hammer throw, weight throw and sheaf toss are all authentic highland games that are easily altered to fit any group of athletes.
Whenever possible, promote a love and appreciation for the arts. A competition for the visual, performing and language arts is a perfect fit for this party. The arts make up a culture and this party is a celebration of the Celtic culture.
A craft competition is fun. Warn your guests ahead of time so they can bring a handcrafted item. Set up a table to display these items.
Any craft or work of art can be entered but some Celtic crafts that may be more likely to win include:
With the items laid out for display, a voting box can be provided and the item with the most votes wins.
Music, singing and dancing all fall in the performing arts category and provide plenty of entertainment for your guest whether they are watching or performing. Some particularly Celtic instrumental talent includes:
That brings us to the last two performing arts categories:
Poetry - Any Robert Burns poem is a perfect fit. My Hoggie is easy to memorize and a cute poem to recite.
As with all these competitions, let the experts as well as the novices
perform. Lots of people and children especially will enjoy trying a new
instrument. Give thirty seconds or a minute to each novice person. Enough time to let them try and yet not bore the audience.
Save these activities for after dinner and after the awards ceremony.
These activities are intended as a way of winding down after a long afternoon of sports and performances. Your party can end after these events or you may want to continue visiting into the evening in the living room or around a campfire.
Shoot the English Knight is an archery contest and a fun way to end your highland games party. The equipment for this activity are:
Your target is the head of your English Knight that has been affixed to a straw bale. If like us you use real archery equipment, treat this like a shooting range and remind the participants of "gun" safety.
Thanks so much for reading! I hope that your backyard highland games party is a hit, just like ours was! If you’ve thrown a highland games party, please share your pictures, story, and activities in the form below!
Faustina Bowen is a founding member of industriousfamily.com. She is the second of nine children in a homeschool family. This high school Junior likes writing scripts for movies, helping mothers with their babies and playing the flute. She contributes to society at large by making wholesome movies and writing amazing articles and entertainment reviews.
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