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Burns Night is the 25th January – What is it?

Ye’ve a heard o Rabbie Burns, the bard o Auld Lang Syne fame haven’t ye?

I thought we all did.  His best known song gets pulled out every Burns Night and New Years Eve as we all link arms and sing the popular year-end anthem.

We’ve visited the birthplace of Robert Burns but sadly we forgot our camera and have nothing to show for it.  We’re not allowed to take photographs inside anyway, so all you are missing are some outside ones.

Every year, on the 25th January, we celebrate his birthday, all around the world.  People get dressed up in tartan kilts, often birl to the tunes of ceilidh music and sit through an ode to the haggis before it’s served.   It’s celebrated in massive style in some places, and in others, it’s simply a boozy knees up or a quiet meal for the family.   The traditional way to celebrate is the eating of haggis, neeps and tatties, washed down with Scotch Whisky and works of the Bard being read out to the attendees.

Haggis, Neeps and Tatties

Having watched an ode to the haggis at my sons special school, I found the after effects to be a traumatic event as he spent a week trying to get his hands on the big kitchen knives, similar to those the storyteller swathed above her head and across the front of her body.  It was a bad choice of celebration and rather strange to see a woman brandishing knives in front of kids we try to keep away from sharp implements.

My kids tend to celebrate in school, so we do little more than have haggis, neeps and tatties of some kind for tea.  It’s customary to recite some of the words of the bard, so a wee bit of poetry with that dram of whisky (or irn bru for kids and non drinkers) to wash down that easily eaten food.

Burns night is all about cameraderie, friendship, fun, and laughter.  Burns suppers are very popular, and up here, they seem to be everywhere.  There is little chance of avoiding hearing about, taking part, or even just smiling at the songs, poetry and reverence that Robert Burns name coaxes from people.  Burns night is meant to be all about “taking part.”  It’s Scotland, and we don’t expect guests to sit back and wait to be entertained.  Everyone is responsible for making it a good, nay great experience for everyone else.    Even if it means you borrow a poetry book from your host, get involved.  You’ll be glad you did.

Robert Burns is often spoken about as Scotland’s favourite son and the format changes little.  After the general welcome and address, the Selkirk Grace is usually said.  From there, the ode to the haggis with the cutting and serving and then people can start to eat.   For the Selkirk Grace, the story goes that on a visit to St. Mary’s Isle, he was asked to say grace at dinner.  The quick lines he came up with are now known as the Selkirk Grace and are 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 thanket.
Source (Wikipedia)

After the meal come the literary readings, and at the end of it all – everyone usually sings “Auld Lang Syne.”

If you’ve never been to a Burns Supper and you get an invite, make sure you go.  You will enjoy it if you get involved.  Everyone should go to at least one.


9 thoughts on “Burns Night is the 25th January – What is it?

  1. Excited much 🙂 We’ve got tickets for the Burns Supper being held in our local Village Hall on 31st January. I’m looking forward to the Immortal Memory, though I have to confess to not being quite so fond of haggis – or is it treason to say that…? My elder daughter used to do Burns recitations when she was in her teens, and I have fond memories of testing her on her words night after night in our hallway 🙂 Happy days!

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