Thursday, 19 January 2017

Burns Night 25th January 2017

Burn’s Night, a celebration of the immortal Rabbie Burns, Scotland's famous poet, it’s national Bard. Held since the fifth anniversary of his death this tradition continues today and not only amongst the Scottish. Over the years the ceremony enshrining the supper has become all the more elaborate, adding an enormous amount of fun to be had during the evening, particularly for those not versed in the traditional Scottish tongue.
I’ll attempt here to take you through the evening's formalities as I understand them, so you can carry out your own Burn’s supper in all it's gloriousness.
Piping in the guest
Of course for this you will need to have your guests gathered in the drawing room, when the time comes to move to the dining room; be at the ready. Whip out you bagpipes and furnish your guests with your finest Scottish air; alternatively you could play a CD at this point.
Host’s welcoming speech
Once all seated it is, at this point, polite to welcome all your guests and say a few nice words, do not worry, you do not need to be as poetic as Burns, you will speaking like him later on, or in fact now, it’s time to say grace. Or to be more precise, the Selkirk Grace, penned by the man himself.
Some hae meat an canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.

Of course you don’t have meat, you have the things left after you’ve taken the meat away but I suppose there is a need to keep the meter and the rhyme of a poem.
Finally you can eat, traditionally you would go for Scotch broth, potato soup, cullen skink or cock-a-leekie. My favourite would be cullen skink but have whichever you can get the best ingredients for.
The haggis
Here is the moment you’ve been waiting for; you get to play the bagpipes again. The haggis should be paraded into the room led by the piper to the table. Whereupon the host recites from memory (or reads) Burns’ Address to a Haggis, as follows:-

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 wordy o' a grace
As lang's my airm.

The full address is printed at the bottom of this article
(fa = fall, sonsie = jolly/cheerful)

(aboon = above)
(painch = paunch/stomach, thairm = intestine)
(wordy = worthy)
The toasts
During this address you will need to whip out a dagger whilst reciting “his knife see rustic Labour dicht” and thrust it into the haggis slicing end to end saying the line “An’ cut you up wi’ ready slicht”. At the end with the address safely delivered, all guests toast the haggis with a whisky and then sit down to the main affair; haggis, neeps and tatties.  
Depending on the company you keep this can be the funniest or the most dangerous part of the evening! It is usually consisting of two toasts:-

Address to the lassies
A short speech given by one of the male guests, giving thanks to the lassies for their work in preparing the meal, it also should cover the male speaker’s views on women in general, this should be amusing but not offensive; but it is here within the danger lies!
Reply to the ladies
A female guest replies, with her views on men, to any particular points raised by the male speaker. Again humour not offensive is the aim, I find that this is best served if there is some advanced collaboration between the speakers.
On closing of the evening it is customary to sing Burns’ most well known of songs Auld Lang Syne bringing our evening or ceremony and fun to an end.

I hope you join in this event by hosting your own Burns evening on the 25th. There is much fun to be had by following all the rigmarole and grandeur of Burns’ words that surround the humble haggis for the 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,
Warm-reekin, rich!

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,
'Bethankit' hums.

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

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