For those of you who have Scottish heritage—even the smallest tinge of Celtic blood coursing through your veins counts—I’m sure you’ve a feeling that something of great cultural significance is looming. You may have found yourself gently caressing some tartan or stifling an urge to buy a shopping trolley’s worth of swede / potatoes / whiskey (delete where applicable).
And that’s ok. It’s understandable. For this Friday, January 25th, is Burns Night. You’ll probably be gathering with others of your ilk in celebration of Scotland’s most famous poet, a certain Robert Burns (1759-96). It’s his birthday, you see. He may have been a dissolute rake of the highest order but his poetry, usually written in the local vernacular, spoke of romance, the sublime and a pastoral beauty of Scotland that resonates today.
Small wonder that Scots and those of the Scottish diaspora come together to enjoy all that is great and good about the land of their forefathers. The evening’s traditional timetable is all about enhancing these magnificent cultural assets. To begin with, the dress code. If you’re a Scot then you’d better dust off those glad rags and unleash the sporran.
For those of us who aren’t Scottish (myself included) then black tie for the chaps or a smart frock for the ladies will do. Having donned a suitable ensemble the festivities commence in grand style with a piper or ten to welcome the guests.
The Selkirk Grace follows…
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.
And what meat we shall eat, dear London Perfect readers! For now is the time to pipe in the haggis! Yes, the haggis, a magnificent sausage pudding’d affair involving the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep. Granted it doesn’t sound the most appetizing of delights, but I think it’s rather delicious. Even more so when the whole dining experience is enhanced by massed pipers, a few drams of whiskey and poetry.
It does seem appropriate to hail said sausagy, pudding’d affair with Burns’ Address to a Haggis. The denouement to this stirring, soaring and utterly rip-roaring bit of verse is a flourishing stab and cut of the haggis at the hands of the Address’ reader. Ah, how we raise our glasses of whiskey with unalloyed joy, shouting out in unison “To the Haggis!”
Fortunately this is food for the middle of winter. Stodgy, hearty fare that requires copious amounts of whiskey to aid the digestive processes, lubricate the bon viveur within us all and prepare the way for poetry.
Oh, the poetry! How about Burns’ My Luve is Like a Red, Red Rose? Or maybe his Tam o’Shanter? There are a mere 700-odd works to choose from and the evening’s recitations of a small sample brings forth a full range of human responses; sadness, delight, titillation, nostalgia, longing… especially for Scotland. My, those tears for Scotland. As I said, I’m not even Scottish and I get quite emotional for a country I’ve only visited a couple of times.
Then there’s likely to be dancing. Hooray!
Gosh. I’m rather excited by the prospect. I’d better just have a sneak peek at what’s on here in London town. If you’re staying in any of London Perfect’s Kensington properties then please try the Chinese dim-sum Burn’s night tribute and report back. I’m intrigued, to say the least…
[Editor’s Note: Here’s a look at how to celebrate Burns Night 2014 in London. Have fun!]
Zoë F. Willis is a London Perfect reservationist, writer and Londoner. Visit her blog Things Wot I Have Made to find out more about Zoë’s many creative talents!
Photo Credits: Scottish Piper by Craig Howell, Portrait of Robert Burns by Alexander Naysmith, Sporran by Gareth Saunders, Scottish pipers by Michael Coghlan, Haggis by Beck, Whiskey glasses by Tienvijftien, Scottish dancing by Dave Herholz