Burns' Night - 25 January
A Burns supper is a celebration of the life and poetry of the poet Robert Burns, author of many Scots poems. The suppers are normally held on or near the poet's birthday, 25 January, sometimes also known as Robert Burns Day or Burns' Night (Burns Nicht), although they may in principle be held at any time of the year.
Burns suppers are most common in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but occur wherever there are Burns clubs, Scottish Societies, expatriate Scots, or aficionados of Burns' poetry. There is a particularly strong tradition of them in southern New Zealand's main city Dunedin (the Scots Gaelic name for Edinburgh incidentally) of which Burns' nephew Thomas Burns was a founding father.
Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796) (also known as Rabbie Burns, Scotland's favourite son, the Ploughman Poet, Robden of Solway Firth, the Bard of Ayrshire and in Scotland as simply The Bard) was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland, and is celebrated worldwide. He is the best known of the poets who have written in the Scots language, although much of his writing is also in English and a "light" Scots dialect, accessible to an audience beyond Scotland. He also wrote in standard English, and in these his political or civil commentary is often at its most blunt.
As well as making original compositions, Burns also collected folk songs from across Scotland, often revising or adapting them. His poem (and song) Auld Lang Syne is often sung at Hogmanay celebrations (New Year's Eve), and Scots Wha Hae served for a long time as an unofficial national anthem of the country. Other poems and songs of Burns that remain well-known across the world today include A Red, Red Rose; A Man's A Man for A'That; To a Louse; To a Mouse: The Battle of Sherramuir; Tam o'Shanter, and Ae Fond Kiss.
A Burns' Night supper usually consists of a Haggis, served up with great ceremony, and accompanied by neeps and tatties (boiled swede and mashed potato). Some believe that a haggis is a dish containing sheep's 'pluck (heart, liver and lungs), minced wth onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt, mixed with stock and traditionally simmered for up to three hours, but it is in fact a wild creature found in the Highland hills. There are in fact two types; one with a longer left leg and the other with a longer right one. This makes them perfectly suited for running 'round and around mountains, but sadly means that the two sub-species cannot interbreed without falling off the mountains to their doom.
Here I have shown young Rabbie tickling the chin of an unsuspecting Haggis, whom he flatters and entraps with his famous 'Address to a Haggis'. Looking on in the bottom right-hand corner is the field-mouse Burns described as a 'wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie'!
Happy Burns' Night!