Thursday 24 January 2008

Burns Night

January 25 is Burns Night. It is held to commemorate the birthday of Scotland's national poet Robert Burns (1759-1796). Although it isn't a pagan festival, it is a great excuse for a celebration.

Along with Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns' writings helped revive an interest in Scottish legends, traditions, culture and history. He was a Freemason and rejected Calvinist theology, piety and social attitudes. On religion, he said: "It becomes a man of sense to think for himself."

A Burns Supper consists of haggis, neaps and tatties (mashed turnips, or swede, and potato), washed down with plenty of whisky. You can buy haggis at most supermarkets these days and some also sell a vegetarian version, which is very tasty. If you are having trouble finding a vegan haggis, you can order one at

The haggis should be brought into the room on a platter, lead by a piper and accompanied by a whisky bearer. If, like most of us Sassenachs, you can't play the bagpipes, you can download some suitable Scottish music at The guests should be standing and applaud the haggis when it reaches the table.

Tradition then dictates that someone should the read Burns' poem Ode to a Haggis over the platter. You can find the words at this site:

Certain points of the poem lend themselves to cutting the haggis, such as "His knife see Rustic-labour dight" and "Trenching your gushing entrails bright". The reader raises the haggis during
the final line "Gie her a Haggis!", to which the guests applaud and raise their whisky glasses for a to toast: "To the haggis!"

Other toasts and speeches can then be made, or you can just tuck into the haggis and whisky.

At the end of the evening everyone should be drunk enough to sing Auld Lang Syne with suitable sentiment. You can find the words here:

For more information on Burns Night visit:

A biography of Robert Burns can be found at:

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