A Toast To Rabbie Burns

So, anyone who has any type of connection to Scotland, Scottish roots, family ties, whatever…knows that tomorrow, January 25th, we celebrate the birth of Scotland’s Bard, Robert (Rabbie) Burns. And this year, January 25th also marks the 6-month anniversary of the day I left Canada to return to Scotland for good.

During his short life, Burns wrote many poems, mostly about love or nature. Some of his most famous works include “To A Mouse”, “Tam O’ Shanter”, “Address To A Haggis”, which is traditionally read at Burns Night suppers. And of course, the song we all sing at midnight to welcome in the New Year, “Auld Lang Syne”. He wrote a lot of his works in the Scots language as well as English, but with a Scots dialect.

Robert’s parents were tenant farmers. He was the eldest of seven children and lived much of his life in poverty. The family moved frequently from farm to farm, but never improved their circumstances. He had very little former education, learning reading, writing and arithmetic from his father in his early years. The house Rabbie was born in was built by his father, and is now the Burns Cottage Museum.

The traditional meal for Burns Night supper consists of haggis (of course). It’s an acquired taste, not for everyone. Luckily, I lived my early years in Scotland and did acquire it! The meal also includes mashed turnip (neeps) and potatoes (tatties). This is accompanied by a good Scottish whisky, which is used at the end of the poem recital to “toast the haggis”. At formal Burns Night events, the haggis is served on a fancy platter and “piped in” by a bagpiper. Traditionally, a Scottish person is the one chosen to recite the Address. Don’t worry, I won’t gross you out by telling you what haggis consists of. If you really want to know, Google it, lol!

Haggis from a Burns Night I photographed a few years ago.

So tomorrow, along with many people around the world with a love of Scotland, I will be celebrating Burns Night. I made sure to have some haggis and black pudding in my freezer for the occasion, and may even have a wee dram with it. With Coronavirus and the continuing lockdown, we can’t celebrate in a pub with our friends. However, there are quite a few virtual events being held by various locations and Scottish groups online. Edinburgh Castle is hosting a free event, and there are many others too. So, grab yourself some haggis, a good dram of whisky, and enjoy the day!

Address To A Haggis

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.

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Published by jenmcnaughton

Born in Scotland, I moved to Canada in 1980 with my family. I was 10. I became homesick in my 20's, and longed for my beloved Scotland. Happily, I recently returned home for good! I am a photographer, freelance writer and bestselling author, and entrepreneur. I am an animal lover and advocate. My other hobbies include exploring, collecting sea glass, reading and music.

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