Recently, I have been teaching a class about Scottish traditions. They are going to Edinburgh next month and wanted to know a little more about the culture. Besides telling them lots about iconic landmarks, such as Edinburgh Castle and Mary King's Close, I also told them about traditions such as the bagpipe and the kilt. Along with all of this, I told them about a celebration known as Burns Night.
Burns Night is celebrated on 25 January. Festivities take place across Scotland to honour Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns. He is well known for the poem 'Auld Lang Syne', which is now frequently performed as a song; this is often sung on New Year's Eve (known as Hogmanay in Scotland). On Burns Night, many people will gather together. Someone playing the bagpipes (a traditional Scottish musical instrument) will enter the room, leading the procession. The chef will follow, carrying the haggis (a Scottish dish made of sheep's innards, typically the heart, liver and lungs, mixed with onion, spices and salt) on a platter. Someone will then recite 'Address to a Haggis', another poem by Burns. The haggis is usually served with 'neeps and tatties' (turnips and potatoes). The Burns Supper will include two further courses – usually meat for the main course, followed by a traditional Scottish dessert. Whilst at university I attended a Burns Supper – I didn't eat the haggis on this occasion as I had tried it before and didn't like it!
After dinner, music is played and people take part in traditional Scottish dancing. This is sometimes known as a 'ceilidh' (pronounced 'kay-lee'). I am a very uncoordinated person, but I love Scottish dancing! It's easy to learn the steps and a great source of entertainment.
In the lead-up to Burns Night, you can often find recipes in newspapers and details of events which will take place. Although this is a Scottish tradition, it has spread across the UK and you can now celebrate it in London!