As you will have seen from my recent post I am studying at Cambridge University, but I have also studied at St. Andrews University in Scotland and have been fortunate enough to live in Scotland for four years. I love how dramatic the countryside is and how much of an impact Scottish culture has on the wider world.
One thing that I have taken with me from Scotland is a love affair of all things Robert Burns. You may know him best, or sing him best on New Year’s Eve! It’s “Auld Lang Syne”, which he wrote in 1788. Even though this is arguably one of his most famous of works, he has many MANY more beautiful poems!
One lovely way to celebrate the life and works of Robert Burns is by organising your own “Burns Supper”, which is traditionally held on, or close to his birthday on January 25th (1759). It’s a great way to get a group of your friends together, enjoy some quality food and drinks and have a few recitals of his works.
I am definitely planning mine this year! If you want to host your own these are the very simple checklists you need to ensure a successful supper:
- Purchase a Burns poem book. These are relatively inexpensive and can be picked up in most bookshops or Amazon. I bought mine from a thrift store for a very small amount. I like the idea that someone else has also used the book for some quality Burns supper celebrations over the years (at least in my romantic imagination).
- Choose some of your favourite poems…
- Grab a group of your friends and relatives (who have all equally chosen their favourites) and recite said poems to the group
- It’s tradition to also cook a little food and have a few drinks on the evening too. Now all of these can be changed somewhat. In Scotland, people may have Neeps and Tatties (turnip and potato) or Haggis with a side of classic Scotch Whiskey. But don’t worry if you cant get hold of these! I like the idea that all of your friends bring a little dish themselves so you can all share. Do choose foods you enjoy, even though it’s not strictly tradition, its all about sharing so I think Burns will let you off!
- Recite some more of his greatest works and if you have cooked a Haggis, the obligatory “address to a Haggis” speech will be required (see below).
- Finally, enjoy your evening!
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 worthy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.
Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis