On a many occasions, my Mother would recite to me in her best Scottish brogue, the words of poet, Robert Burns:
“O wad some Power the gie us
to see ourselves as others see us
It would free many a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion.”
On January 25 throughout the United Kingdom and in places round the world where we remember the poet Robert Burns, we celebrate Burns Night. Burns Night commemorates the life of the bard/poet, Robert Burns and his contributions to Scottish culture. You may not have heard of Burns, but you surely know some of his work if you’ve ever sung Auld Lang Syne at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Traditionally, a Burns Supper is held on the evening of January 25, and friends gather round the table to share a meal, raise their glasses in toasts, and read or recite pieces of his work. People of Scottish ancestry worldwide continue to celebrate Scotland’s favorite son, the Bard of Aryshire, or simply, The Bard. Born on January 25, 1759, Burns was a prolific poet and writer, whose works addressed political and civil issues of the times. Burns died in Dumfries, Scotland on July 21, 1796, and on the first anniversary of his death, his friends and acquaintances held the first Burns Night. The celebration was later moved to coincide with his birthday.
If you would like to throw your own version of a Burns Night, you might want to include a flag of Scotland in your centerpiece. The Scottish flag, called the Saltire, is composed of a blue background with thick white bars laid diagonally forming the Cross of St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland. Burns Nights can be all male, all female, or mixed company. Men traditionally wear kilts while women wear skirts, dresses and shawls bearing their family tartan. Foods associated with Burns Night include:
Cock a Leekie Soup (chicken and leek soup), haggis, neeps (mashed turnips) and tatties (mashed potatoes), cranachan (whipped cream mixed with raspberries served on oat wafers), and bannocks ( a griddle bread). Whiskey is the traditional drink.
While Burns Night is not a public holiday, it is celebrated with great enthusiasm. London pubs and restaurants advise booking ahead for the traditional Burns Night festivities featuring food, music, and verse. For friends in New England, you might want to head out to Dartmouth and for friends in Oregon, the Portland Oregon’s University Club is hosting their annual Burns Night. San Francisco and Portland State University celebrated their Burns Nights a week ago, however, Monterey, California, where they always get it right with all things of Scotland, celebrates Burns Night tonight.
Museum of Monterey hosts a traditional Burns Supper tonight at 5:30. Scots members of the Monterey History and Arts Association are hosting their Burns Supper, celebrating the 253rd anniversary of Robby Burns birth. The festivities begin at 5:30 P.M., at Casa Serrano, 412 Pacific Street in downtown Monterey. All are invited to come in period dress, and you will be treated to the traditional foods, a piper, the “sissy English” beverages, and an appearance of the bard himself, as portrayed by Taelen Thomas. For tickets and information, call 831. 372.