January 25, 2010

Burns Night – Scotland

This is the birthday of the poet Robert Burns, and many people in Scotland and around the world will be holding a Burns Supper to celebrate his life and works. (Actually, a Burns Supper can be held on the anniversary of the poet's death, July 21, or any time during the year. This is the most popular date for the event, however.)

Robert Burns lived from 1759 to 1796. Considered the national poet of Scotland, Burns wrote in the Scots language and in English. Some of his most famous pieces are “Auld Lang Syne” (sung by many worldwide on New Year's Eve), “A Red, Red Rose,” and “Tam o' Shanter.”

There is a standard format for a Burns supper:

  • Guests gather and mix informally.
  • The host gives a welcoming speech, and the event is declared “open.” Then the guests sit and a special grace (originally delivered by Burns) is said:
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.
  • The soup course is served: Scotch broth, potato soup, or Cock-a-Leekie.
  • Everyone stands as the main course, a haggis, is brought in to the accompaniment of bagpipes.
  • The host or another recites Burns' poem “Address to a Haggis.”
It starts like this (with sonsie meaning jolly or cheerful):
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
You know what a haggis is, right? It is a sheep's heart, liver, and lungs minced up with onion, oatmeal, suet, and spices and simmered in broth in the sheep's stomach for three hours. It's supposed to be really delicious...
(I'm not positive that I buy that, though...)
  • After the poem is recited, the haggis is toasted, and everyone sits down and eats. Additions to the haggis (the dark stuff pictured here) on the traditional Burns Supper menu are tatties (mashed potatoes, appearing their normal cream color here), mashed neeps (rutabagas, appearing yellow or pale orange here), and dessert.
  • After supper, people give speeches and toasts. First, everyone toasts the Queen, then guests remember Burns' life or poetry with either humorous or super-serious speeches, and everyone toasts Burns. Next there is often a short speech and toast “to the Lassies”—in other words, to women, followed by a reply to the toast to the Lassies (AKA the Toast to the Laddies).
  • Guests often sing songs written by Burns—or are entertained by singers hired for the event.
  • Closing; the host calls on guests to “give the vote of thanks,” stand, join hands, and sing “Auld Lang Syne.”
Read some of Burns' works, available under “Poems and Songs” here.
Notice that Scots words you may not know are hyperlinked to translations in several languages...Also, there are LOTS of other things to read at that website!

Find a family tartan (or plaid pattern), or explore the many established tartans here. There's even a way to design your own tartan!

Recipes and printables (coloring pages and puzzles) are available here.

More complicated (and cooler) coloring pages, meant for older kids, are available here...again, along with a lot of other neat stuff!

1 comment:

  1. Between the compelling name and the even more evocative description, I'm not sure I'll be serving up haggis any time soon. But I may recite the Burns grace.