Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Burns' Night

This is an excerpt from Book III:
25th January is Burns’ Night when the Scots (wherever they may be in the world) congregate to celebrate, with a Burns’ Supper, the birthday of the great Scotch poet Robbie Burns (1759-1796); author of some poems that are read and loved wherever the Scots-English language is spoken; including: Tam O’Shanter; Address to a Haggis; Auld Lang Syne, and My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose.

At the more formal suppers, the full order of proceedings is as follows: there are words of welcome from the host and then the Selkirk Grace is said:

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.

All then remain standing to receive the haggis (comprising sheep offal, onion, oats etc., cooked in a sheep’s stomach), served with mashed neeps (turnips or swede) and tatties (potatoes), as the chef is piped and slow hand-clapped with it to the top table. The host or another diner then recites the Address to A Haggis and, at the line “’an cut you up wi’ ready slight”, he or she, with gusto, cuts the haggis open, to applause and a toast to the Haggis in whisky; after which there follows the meal and then the Loyal Toast and any other toasts. After this there is a speech To the Immortal Memory of Robbie Burns; The Toast to the Lassies and a response from a Lassie and then, of course, more poems and songs. The evening ends with much carousing; everyone singing Auld Lang Syne and then taking great care not to trip over their snow shoes on their way hame.

1 comment:

  1. I miss this tradition. When I was younger -- a young teen, in fact -- my grandparents would occasionally have me with them to the celebration. It was hosted by a couple of Scottish expatriates in their home: The Johnstones (Bill and Noreen).

    The celebration was a complete one: piper, haggis, full recitations -- even dancing. I imagine I could find one to replace it with, but it would be odd to attend not knowing anyone.