It’s time to raise a glass and celebrate the life and works of famed Scottish poet Robert Burns.
Born in Ayrshire in 1759, Robert Burns was the eldest of seven children born to his small tenant farming parents. While he toiled on the farm as a young man, Burns had a keen interest in literature, learning English grammar from a private tutor and spending his evenings reading many books.
He began writing when he was a teenager, penning love poems to a farmer’s daughter, but it wasn’t until after his father’s death in 1784 that he started writing seriously. His first collection was published locally in late 1784-85, gaining regional acclaim.
Like many of those considered be a genius of the arts, it wasn’t until after Burns’ death that he was widely recognised for his work.
Five years after his death in 1801, a group of his friends hosted a gathering to mark the anniversary with a hearty meal, performances of Burns’ work and a speech in his honour. This original supper took place in July, but due to the success, they decided to hold again, this time in honour of Burns’ birthday in January forming the roots of the tradition we know today.
A Burns Night Supper typically consists of traditional Scottish dishes including Cock-a-Leekie soup, neeps (turnips), tatties (potatoes) and, of course, haggis which is typically piped in by a bagpiper. It wouldn’t be Burns Night without reciting the bard himself, with the host addressing the haggis before supper begins. After eating the host typically gives a speech remembering some aspect of Burns's life or poetry raising a toast to Rabbie Burns known as the “Immortal Memory” as well as guests and performers reciting poems such as “Selkirk Grace”, and the “Address to the Lassies”.
To conclude the celebration, guests join hands and sing Auld Lang Syne, a song which is usually associated with New Year’s Eve and has been translated into more than thirty languages.
No matter how you celebrate Burns Night, it should be a night of celebration and frivolity, enjoying all things Scottish, from tartan and kilts to a dram (or three) of Scottish Whisky. Raise a glass and say cheers tae the bard!