Burns' Night

Hou ar ye? Hou's it gaun? There's nothing like a wee bit of Ceilidh – that's Scottish country dancing to you Southerners – to mark Burns' Night. Never heard of Burns' Night? Wouldn't know a "neep", "haggis" or "tattie" if they were directed straight at your head and fired out of the One O' Clock gun at Edinburgh castle? Read on, and all will become clear... An excuse to wear a kilt and get hammered, Burns' Night is annually celebrated in bonnie Scotland on or near to January 25th to commemorate the life of the bard (poet), Robert Burns.

Born on January 25th, 1759, in Alloway, Scotland, this day marks Burns' contribution to Scottish culture. One of his most notorious works is that of ‘Auld Lang Syne', which is sung on New Year's Eve in Scotland, parts of the UK and other places across the globe. The first Burns' supper was held in Ayrshire, Scotland, in the late 1700's on July 21st, the anniversary of his death, but was later changed to January 25th, which marks his birthday.

Burns was also known as "Rabbie Burns", the "Bard of Ayrshire", "Scotland's favourite son", and in Scotland, "The Bard". Robert Burns, one of Scotland's most phenomenal cultural icons, was a bard who wrote numerous poems, lyrics and other pieces, all of which addressed political and civil issues. Many folks hold a Burns' supper on or around Burns' Night on which readings of pieces written by The Bard are recited.

For all the pomp and ceremony, you couldn't really say there's anything... sexy about a Burns' supper. Haggis (a type of sausage prepared in a sheep's stomach) is served on a large platter to the sound of a piper playing bagpipes. When the haggis is laid on the table, the host reads the "Address to a Haggis" – an ode that Burns wrote to the Scottish dish. In the ode, Burns waxes lyrical about haggis as though he could marry it – even describing it as "hurdies [buttocks] like a distant hill" – but there are also adequate lines in his famed poem that roil the stomach, such as "gushing entrails". The bottom line is, there's nothing fainthearted about a haggis.

Other types of foods include cock-a-leekie soup (chicken and leek soup), neeps (mashed turnips or swedes) and tatties (mashed potatoes); cranachan (whipped cream mixed with raspberries and served with sweet oat wafers); and bannocks (a kind of bread cooked on a griddle). Liberal lashings of wine, whisky or ale are served with dinner and it's often customary to douse the haggis with a splash of whisky sauce, which, with true Scots irony, is neat whisky.

After the hearty feast, singers or musicians perform Burns' songs or recitals of a Burns' poem, including ‘My Luve is Like a Red Red Rose' or ‘Rantin', Rovin' Robin', ahead of toasting the role of women in the world today. So, it's time to put away any southern prejudices about ‘Scottish cuisine' and men in skirts, and concentrate on what's one of the most pleasurable of our island's traditions and pay tribute to Scotland's national poet. Let's face it, it breaks up a long, miserable month and provides enough energy to keep you going until spring. Add booze, and you might even forget about the gushing entrails. So get grappling with a neep. Smiley face.