What is a Burns Night (January 25)? Many in the US haven’t a clue, unless you have Scottish heritage or friends, you may not know. Robert Burns ( 1759 – 1796) was a 18th c. poet in Scotland living after The Clearances. In America, most are only familiar with a little song sung at the New Year. You still have time to find one in the US as some celebrations are on the weekend.
But, if you have been at University and an Arts Major, love poetry and hanging out with Scots because it’s your heritage, get in with the Burns Night anywhere you can. There’s nothing like a full traditional Burns Night meal and festivities gathering. It’s fun to try to understand auld Scots poetry and pipes and haggis. Seriously it’s great fun. Warning: there will be pipes in a hall, and that can get loud.
I had planned to join in this year on a Burns Night in Portland, but found the price of tickets at the various whiskey venues to be too pricey. Some of these were to help out charities but $75.00 to $150.00 a plate was a bit high after the end of year expenses. So, it may be a trip to a pub with a friend with a book of his poems.
If you are lucky to get to a celebration here in the states, take heart. With new rulings in the offing to lift the ban on sheep’s entrails sales in the US, the traditional haggis can maybe be served in the US again. Not that resourceful fans of the fun sausage haven’t been popping over the border to Canada to get ingredients for years.
Burns poetry celebrates Scotland and 18th c. life. My favorites are usually weird subjects like bugs (To a Louse). Many of his poems reflect on daily life and happenings. Of course with language being Scots and 18th c. pronunciations combined, can take some practice. But if you go to or create your own Burns celebration with friends in a pub, have a dram and loosen your tongue, the American accent and Scots words can be highly entertaining. But it’s all from the heart, so that would be what Rabbie would like.
Burns Supper has an order of things. The ceremony is usually as follows:
- To Start – Selkirk Grace Gathering and the grace is said
- The Meal – starter is served, the haggis is piped in, Address to a Haggis read, toasting, main meal and dessert
- After The Meal – Immortal Memory read, Toast to the Lassies, Reply to the Toast to the Lassies.
- To End The Night – everyone stands and sings Auld Lang Syne, crossing of arms and joining of hands for the line “And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!”
Places in the US to Celebrate
Check out the American-Scottish Foundation for there events on Burns Night. Warning, many of these are fund raisers and a bit steep.
Can’t Find a Celebration, Create Your Own
Naething says ye can’t make your own celebration. Find a pub or tavern and gather some friends. They may not have haggis, but I don’t think Rabbie would mind if you had a chippy and dram. Bring some of his poems and try to pronounce them. It can be loads of fun.
Scottish Poetry Library for poetry from Scotland, this is your source. Search for Rabbie here.