"A (wo)man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of (her)his life in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of beautiful God has implanted in the human soul."- Goethe

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Burns Night

If you're Scottish, you probably know of the great tradition that is Burns Night. It's a jolly gathering of friends during which we feast at a fabulous Burns Supper, toast and roast, and share poetry while appreciating all the good and irreverent things Robbie Burns, Scottish poet, gave to the world. It's usually hosted around the anniversary of his birthday and can be quite the formal affair with kilts and tartans all around.

We decided we had waited long enough over the years and would host our own evening of singing, toasts, and rhyme-sharing:

You should know that Burns Supper includes traditional Scottish fare, which was most likely born out of desperation if you take a close look at the ingredients. Luckily, both Kirk and I come from strong Scottish stock, so we survived.

The cock-a-leeky soup is a nice take on something similar to the chicken noodle soup that is comfortable to so many people. The neeps and tatties are good too, and aren't too adventurous unless you haven't ever had mashed rutabagas before. They're pretty much orange potatoes, though, no biggie. The most interesting dish by far is haggis, which is usually sheep offal mixed with oats and spices and boiled in a sheep stomach. We don't typically have access to such ingredients, so in order to make our Burns Supper a success we had to take a new-world spin on it. Still.

First of all, meatloaf is the worst. Second of all, haggis is crumbly liver-flavored meatloaf.

But, the flourished recitation of Address to a Haggis makes it acceptable. We were lucky enough to have a true Scotsman do the honor, and the brogue was better than we could have dreamed. He really let it loose for us, too. What a pal!

This is how the evening works:
  • The guests are piped in (yep, we had a friend who brought his bagpipes along!)
  • There is a welcome speech and someone recites the Selkirk Grace:
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.
  • People gather and eat the soup course (we made cock-a-leeky, which is a soup with chicken, leeks, and barley)
  • The haggis is piped in and the cook presents it to the guests
  • Someone recites Address to a Haggis and brandishes a knife and carves open the meat at the appropriate place in the poem
  • We toast to the haggis!
  • The piper tastes the first bit and declares it fit
  • The feast commences and can include a dessert course (we made a version of cranachan!), a cheese course, and a coffee course too
  • After eating, a program begins with an Immortal Memory Toast to Robbie Burns
  • There are poem and ballad recitations of works by Burns
  • There is a Toast to the Lassies by one of the men
  • There is a collaborative reply Toast to the Laddies by one of the women
  • More poems and literary discussions ensue
  • We end the evening by joining hands and singing Auld Lang Syne in one another's faces as we jig in and out of a big circle
Fun, huh? It was nice to learn more about the traditions, share sentimental toasts, and join in a festive rendition of Auld Lang Syne to end the evening. The poetry was so nice, and the company nicer. It gave us a great excuse to break out the fancy china and my literary anthologies! We may need to make it an annual tradition, especially now that I know how to track down the appropriate offal ingredients.

Have you ever heard of Burn's Night or been to a Burn's Supper before? Do you want to learn more about it or have any questions about this fun tradition?

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a blast! We'll be glad to join you on another year to learn more about this cultural gem.