Scots Wha Hae!

Today, January 25th, is the 260th birthday of the great Scottish poet Robert Burns.  Why is this significant?  Burns is still considered Scotland's national poet, a voice for common humanity, a man of the people, a keen political observer and a lover of Scottish whisky.   He is revered by Scots and his birthday is celebrated all over the world.
Burns gave us poems that even non-Scots are familiar with:  Auld Lang Syne, Comin' Thro' the Rye, A Red Red Rose, Tam o' Shanter.  And his rousing song, Scots Wha Hae, can still bring Scots to tears.

The first Burns Night dinner was held by the Burns Club of Greenock in the Scottish Lowlands in 1802, six years after his death.  And it caught on.  It has become a major Scottish cultural event, celebrated every January 25 for the past 254 years.

A Burns night dinner revolves around three crucial elements:  haggis, Scotch whisky and (of course) the poetry of the man himself.

Haggis, a rich crumbly mix of lamb meat, lamb offal, spices, and oats, and cooked in the sheep's stomach, is usually served with mashed turnips and potatoes (neeps and tatties).  Although I have eaten, and actually enjoyed, haggis, I usually buy the vegetarian version.  Purists would scoff, but it is a much healthier option.   Very tasty and much more mentally palatable.
Before the meal can begin, guests rise to salute the haggis with one of the night's highlights:  the presentation of the haggis and the reciting of Burns' Address to a Haggis.  "Fair Fa your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!"  It is traditional to have the haggis brought into the room accompanied by bagpipe music.   And everyone toasts the poet (and the haggis) with a whisky toast.

Before you can dig in, you must recite Burns' Selkirk Grace:
Some hae meat an canna eat, 
And some wad eat that want it; 
But we hae meat, and we can eat, 
And sae the Lord be thankit. 
Which, by the way, was the grace we used before meals at home when I was a child.  It always makes me feel a bit nostalgic.

The whisky generally flows throughout and after the meal.  Burns Dinners can be very raucous affairs.  A little too raucous, sometimes.  Dancing and merriment usually ensue.

So tonight, Brian and I will stay home and have our own intimate Burns Dinner.  Just the two of us, with our vegetarian haggis, neeps and tatties, a little shortbread, some poetry, some pipe music and some Scotch single malt whisky.  After all, we won't have to worry about driving home

To end this very Scottish post, I thought I'd share a video of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo I found on YouTube:
Happy Burns Night!