If you’ve never experienced a proper Robbie Burns Day party – haggis, scotch whisky, pipes, bad Scottish accent imitations and of course the recitation of the Address – you really should. Besides presenting an opportunity to wear a kilt, when else do you get to recite a pithy ode written in 1787 and then stab a haggis with a sgain dubh (skeen do), your trusty sock dagger?
I grew up in a Scottish family. Dad played the pipes, my brother competed in the Highland Games and I learned my Scottish Fling and Sword Dance. I’ve been to more than one Highland Games and admit that I have a thing for kilts – especially the modern urban type (check out the Skilt). Men do look very manly decked out in a kilt and sporran. I even tried to convince my hubby to wear one to our wedding, but with his Portuguese background he just didn’t see the appeal of standing bare legged and breezy in front of our closest friends and family. I’m still trying though. Of course, there always is the question of what is worn underneath it all. Perhaps the scene in Brave Heart best answers that.
When I was younger Robbie Burns Day was always marked with a large house party, our guests decked out in bits of tartan, and Dad often did double duty piping in the haggis and reciting the Address. When we lived in Europe, I really enjoyed explaining the whole thing to our new friends who probably were too polite to question my assurances that it was a blast. In Denmark, being Scottish generally meant that you were cheap. In Spain, it meant that you liked to holiday on their beaches pink and peeling. So the fun was lost there. Moving to Kitchener has meant reintegration with my Scottish immigrant brethren and I eagerly await the discovery of my new Robbie Burns Day traditions. (Know of a good party? Let me know!)
For you non Scots, here is a primer to get you through today and everyday in true Scottish Ceilidh style. Pour yourself a dram and have a great time. May your socks be warm and your sporran full!
The Address to the Haggis, is a poem by Scotland’s most famous poet Robert Burns. Burns either had a wicked sense of humor or really, really loved haggis. I’d go with the humor. The World Burns Club webpage has both the original and translation for you non Scots. My favorite part is (in translation):
The groaning platter there you fill
Your buttocks like a distant hill
Your skewer would help to repair a mill
In time of need
While through your pores the juices emerge
Like amber beads
Haggis, if you’ve never had it, is the color and consistency of a grey paste. It is made by taking the heart, lungs and liver of a sheep, mixing them with oatmeal and then inserting the concoction into the sheep’s stomach. Sounds good right? I do think that haggis is an acquired taste, and I’m very sure that it is far more palatable when preceded by several glasses of scotch. Check out the new way to serve haggis – Haggis Sliders!
Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games happens August 12-14, 2011. Well worth the trip, you can sample haggis, see a variety of kilts, hear the pipe bands and watch the dance and sport competitions.
On the Day: The Story of the Spirit of Scotland Pipe Band plays at Cinepex Odeon Feb 9 & 13. Think battle of the bands with pipes and drums.