Friday, 24 January 2014

Burns Night: How to Celebrate

Every year on January 25th, millions of people (mainly in Scotland and Northern Ireland) join together to celebrate the life and work of the Scottish poet, Robert Burns. Born in Alloway in 1759, Robert Burns is regarded as not just the national poet of a Scotland, but a national treasure too. He wrote literally hundreds of poems and songs in the Scottish dialect, the most famous of which are Tam O’ Shanter, To A Mouse, and of course, Auld Lang Syne.

Robert Burns: 1759-1796
Robert Burns: 1759-1796

Burns Supper

The Burns supper is a gathering of friends which can be either formal or informal. Celebrations begin by piping in the guests to the sound of bagpipes. This music usually comes from live musicians at larger, more formal ceremonies, but a CD is more than adequate for smaller gatherings with a few friends.
When the food is ready, it is ushered in to a recital of The Selkirk Grace, usually given by the host. It goes as follows:

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.

The Address To The Haggis

Before the eating begins, the host then recites Address To A Haggis

When reading the line, ‘His knife see Rustic-labour dight’ the host cuts the haggis open along its length, making sure they spill out some of the insides.

Toast to the haggis

Once the recital has finished, everybody raises their glass and shouts ‘To the Haggis!’

The haggis is traditionally served with neeps and tatties, which is mashed swede and potatoes to non-Scottish people. For dessert, Clootie Dumpling or Tipsy Laird are usually the preferred choices. And to wash everything down, guests generally drink whisky and wine (not in the same glass of course!)

Auld Sang Syne

A Burns Supper traditionally ends with the singing of Burns’ famous song about parting, Auld Lang Syne. Everyone joins hands in a large circle and sings the words together and at the line 'And here's a hand', you cross each of your hands over to rejoin those standing on either side of you.