A few days ago I had the pleasure of celebrating an interesting and hilariously fun tradition: Burns night. This Scottish tradition is typically celebrated on January 25th in honor of Robert Burns (1759-96), who is considered the national poet of Scotland. There were bagpipes, several toasts, many lines of poetry read in thick Scottish accents, and even haggis. Robert Burns is most well-known for poems such as “Auld Lang Syne,” “Scots Wha Hae,” “A Red, Red Rose,” “To a Mouse”, etc.
There is actually a specific order to Burns night, which Mansfield College tried to adhere to fairly accurately. A large part of the night is devoted to the haggis, involving piping it in with bagpipes, addressing it, and even toasting to it. I had never had haggis before, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it’s actually quite good (ours was fried, so that may have helped a bit). If you’re like me and had no idea what haggis even was before trying it for the first time, allow me to save you a Wikipedia search:
Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck; minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach though now often in an artificial casing instead.
It sounds strange– and it is!– but I definitely wouldn’t let that dissuade you from trying it at least once!
It was really interesting celebrating this Scottish tradition in England, considering the rivalry between the two nations. The speeches were lighthearted and the accents were on in full force, but it’s clear that the tension between the two nations still exists and is entrenched in both cultures (to a certain extent and largely depending on the individual, of course). All in all, Burns night made me want to visit Scotland even more!
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Have you ever celebrated Burns night? What are your favorite traditions? Do you like haggis? Let me know in the comments section below!