January 25 marks Burns Night, the evening where the people of Scotland celebrate the birthday of the poet Robert Burns. Today’s short post will give provide those of you who are unaware of this celebration, with all the information you need.
Who was Robert Burns?
Robert Burns was a Scottish poet a lyricist from Ayrshire. He was born in 1759 and grew up alongside his six siblings on the family farm. Whilst in his 20s, Robert created a collection of poems known as “Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect,” (Also known as the Kilmarnock Volume) and began selling them in order to raise funds to move away to Jamaica.
It turns out that people were huge fans of his work and the collection became a huge success. Following the positive reaction to his work, Robert changed his mind about Jamaica and moved to Edinburgh instead.
Robert’s work would continue to impress those around him, and he would soon become a cultural icon in Scotland. Arguably the most famous bit of work produced is Auld Land Syne, which is sung at New Year’s Eve in Scotland, parts of the UK and other places around the world.
Unfortunately, Robert would not live a long life and passed away in 1796 – at just 37-years-old. Although there are several rumours on the cause of his death, it’s commonly believed that Robert died from a condition linked to chronic rheumatic heart disease. Burns had 12 children and it is believed that there are over 600 living descendants of burns still alive today, including Tommy Hilfiger – his great-great-great-nephew.
When was Burns Night Created?
Following his death, a group of Burns’ closest friend agreed that they would celebrate his life on the anniversary of his death (July 21). The first celebration took place on the fifth anniversary of his death, at the Burns cottage.
This occurred for several years, however the tradition would change over the years and they began to celebrate on his birthday instead.
How to celebrate Burns Night?
The traditional way of celebrating Burns Night is by hosting a Burns supper. Formal celebrations, held at organisations and clubs, will include readings and toasts of some of Burns’ work, whilst all evenings will (traditionally) include a meal consisting of haggis and Scotch whisky.
As the haggis is brought to the table, a reading of “Address to a Haggis” will take place. This is the ode that Burns wrote to the Scottish dish. Once the reading is over, the haggis is ceremonially sliced into two pieces and the meal begins.
Traditionally, the haggis will be served alongside mashed potatoes and mashed swede. There will also be a desert course, cheese courses and coffee on offer as part of the meal, commonly following Scottish recipes.
After the meal, a speaker will make a toast to the memory of Robert Burns, potentially give a speech and then choose a Burns song or poem to perform. Next, a male at the supper will give an “Address to the Lassies,” which pays tribute to the women present. A female guest will respond with a similarly humorous speech, the “Reply to the Laddies.”
The evening will end with a rendition of Auld Lang Syne.
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