As I’m interested in all things Scottish this year, because of the release of The Widow Wore Plaid, I thought I should do a post on Burns Nicht–or Burns Night, the celebration of the Scottish poet Robert “Rabbie” Burns’ birthday.
I’ve heard of Burns Night celebrations, but sad to say, I have not attended one. They are traditionally held on January 25, the anniversary of Burns’ birthday. Scottish Societies (and other organizations) celebrate the day by having what is called the Burns Supper.
This year commemorates the anniversary of Burns’ 262nd. The poet was born in Alloway, Ayrshire in 1759. His passions were for women, drinking, and poetry, the latter bringing him fame and fortune at the age of 27.
Burns’ poetry grew out of his love of Scotalnd, and he’s called the Bard of Scotland and the Ploughman’s Poet. While we may have heard or read some of his poetry–I remember a line from his poem “To A Mouse”: “The best laid schemes o’ Mice and Men/Gang aft agley” and one from “To A Louse”: “O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us/To see oursels as others see us!”–but we all know his most famous poem/song “Auld Lang Syne.”
A Burns night celebration (the tradition dating from 1801, five years after his death when
some friends decided to remember the poet with a dinner) includes a black-tie dinner featuring Haggis (a sheep’s stomach stuffed with the heart, liver, and lungs, seasoned with onions and spices)
served with neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes), which were some of Burns’ favorite foods. Whiskey is the drink of choice during the evening.
The night’s festivities begins with a recitation of the Selkirk Grace, written by Burns:
“Some hae meat an canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.”
Afterwards, the haggis is carried in, often to the piping of bagpipes. Then Burns’ poem “Address to a Haggis” is read. After dinner more poetry is read, more whiskey is drunk, and it ends with everyone singing “Auld Lang Syne.”
All in all it sounds like a fun evening, full of the stuff of history that I enjoy so much.
So next year I’ll have to find a celebration I can join in and toast Rabbie Burns and everything Scottish in style!