Burns the Night

Whiskey, haggis and poetry. We might not usually think of these three things together, but on Burns Night, 25th January, each is very important. Burns Night, never spelled with an apostrophe for some reason, is a night when Scots, and lovers of Scottish culture, come together to celebrate the life and work of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns.

If something ‘sticks closely’ to something else, it is almost the same.

Like many other national celebrations, such as St Patrick’s Day for the Irish, or Thanksgiving for Americans, Burns Day is slowly becoming a more international affair. The spread of Burns Night is another example of how increasingly globalized we are. Outside of Scotland, the biggest Burns Night events are probably found in North America. Around 10 million people, living in either the US or Canada claim some Scottish descent. The Robert Burns Association of North America lists 17 events on the continent and the format seems to stick very closely to the traditions of Burns Nights in Scotland.

“From my experience with North American members of RBANA I find the following. The majority of what I will call active Burns Supper participants in Canada tend to be Scottish expatriates,” said Ron Ballantyne, president of the Robert Burns Association of North America.

A toast is a call to honour somebody or something. It is also a piece of bread which has been heated and browned.

The host welcomes the guests and grace is said – grace is often the Selkirk Grace, said in the Scottish tongue. Next the haggis is brought in, then welcomed with the “Address to the Haggis.” After dinner a speech is made to the memory and work of Robert Burns. Next comes the “Toast to the Lassies”. In the past this was a sign of appreciation to the women who prepared the meal. Today it is a humorous comment about women. The women then have the right to reply in the “Toast to the Laddies”.

Scottish people emigrated throughout the world so you can find Burns Night celebrations in many countries. The St. Andrew’s Society in Russia organizes Burns Nights for Scottish expats or those Russians interested in Scottish culture. The two countries have connections many people may not know about. A number of Scottish soldiers settled in Russia.

In Poland, one Scot left his historical mark. Alexander Chalmers, known as Aleksandr Czamer in Polish, was elected mayor of Warsaw four times in the late 17th and early 18th century. Today in the Polish capital you will continue to find celebrations of Robert Burns. Across the border in the Czech Republic, a Burns Supper has been celebrated for a number of years. This year will be its 10th anniversary.

Sláinte is a traditional drinking toast in Scotland and Ireland and literally means health.

From the coastal town of Ayr, Burns’ name is now known throughout the world. So whether it is the poetry, the cuisine or the company, Burns Nights have a lot to offer. Sláinte!

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team 

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Whiskey, haggis and poetry. These things aren’t usually talked about together but on Burns Night, 25th January, each is very important. Burns Night is a night when Scots and lovers of Scottish culture, come together to celebrate the life and work of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns.

If something ‘sticks closely’ to something else, it is almost the same.

Like many other national celebrations, such as St Patrick’s Day for the Irish, or Thanksgiving for Americans; Burns Day is becoming a more international affair. Outside of Scotland, the biggest Burns Night events are probably found in North America. The Robert Burns Association of North America lists 17 Burns Nights on the continent and the format seems to stick very closely to the traditions of Burns Nights in Scotland.

“From my experience with North American members of RBANA I find the following. The majority of what I will call active Burns Supper participants in Canada tend to be Scottish expatriates,” said Ron Ballantyne, president of the Robert Burns Association of North America.

A toast is a call to honour somebody or something. It is also a piece of bread which has been heated and browned.

The host welcomes the guests and grace is said – grace is often the Selkirk Grace, said in the Scottish tongue. Next the haggis is brought in, then welcomed with the “Address to the Haggis.” After dinner is the “Toast to the Lassies”. In the past this was a way to thank the women who cooked the meal. Today it is a humorous comment about women. The women then do a “Toast to the Laddies”.

Scottish people emigrated throughout the world so you can find Burns Night celebrations in many countries. The St. Andrew’s Society in Russia organizes Burns Nights for Scottish expats or those Russians interested in Scottish culture. In Warsaw you will find celebrations and across the border in the Czech Republic, a Burns Supper has been celebrated for a number of years.

Sláinte is a traditional drinking toast in Scotland and Ireland and literally means health.

From the coastal town of Ayr, Burns’ name is now known around the world. So whether it is the poetry, the cuisine or the company, Burns Nights have a lot to offer. Sláinte!

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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Whiskey, haggis and poetry. We might not usually associate these three things together, but on Burns Night, 25th January, each plays an important role. Burns Night, never spelled with an apostrophe for some reason, is a night when Scots, and aficionados of Scottish culture, come together to celebrate the life and work of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, known more affectionately as Robbie or “Rabbie” Burns. You have to imagine a Scottish accent for the last spelling.

Like many other national celebrations, such as St Patrick’s Day for the Irish, or Thanksgiving for Americans; Burns Day is slowly becoming a slightly more international affair. Popularized by expats, but embraced by non-Scots who want to participate in the ceremony, the spread of Burns Night is another example of how increasingly globalized we are. And let’s face it, who doesn’t want an excuse to enjoy some fine whiskey, especially in the winter of the Northern Hemisphere?

Outside of Scotland, the biggest Burns Night events are probably found in North America. Around 10 million people, living in either the US or Canada claim some Scottish descent.

“From my experience with North American members of RBANA I find the following. The majority of what I will call active Burns Supper participants in Canada tend to be Scottish expatriates. Canadians with Scottish ancestry will come to Burns Suppers as a way of connecting with their heritage but most are only vaguely acquainted with Burns and his poetry and the Lallands dialect is lost on them. In the USA things are a bit different as there are many more people of Scottish heritage who are very actively involved and who appreciate Burns’ poetry,” said Ron Ballantyne, president of the Robert Burns Association of North America.

A toast is a call to honour somebody or something. It is also a piece of bread which has been heated and browned.

The Association lists 17 events on the continent. The association itself includes about 20 clubs from across North America. The format for the event seems to stick very closely to the traditions of Burns Nights in Scotland. The host welcomes the guests and grace is said – grace is often the Selkirk Grace, said in the Scottish tongue. Next the haggis is brought in with a piper – known as the piping of the haggis and then the haggis is welcomed with the “Address to the Haggis.” First is one to the memory and work of Robert Burns. Next comes the “Toast to the Lassies”. In the past this was a sign of appreciation to the women who prepared the meal. Today it is a humorous comment about women. The women then have the right to reply in the “Toast to the Laddies”.

Given that Scottish people emigrated throughout the world, it is possible to find Burns Night celebrations in countries one doesn’t always imagine having strong cultural ties to Scotland. The St. Andrew’s Society in Russia organizes Burns Nights for Scottish expats or those Russians interested in Scottish culture. The two countries have ties which many people may not realize. A number of Scottish soldiers settled in Russia and quite a number of them rose through the ranks. The most decorated of those had to be Patrick Gordon who was a general under Peter the Great and one of the tsar’s most trusted men. In more recent history, the admiral Vasili Fersen claimed Scottish ancestry too.

In Poland, one Scot left his historical mark. Alexander Chalmers, known as Aleksandr Czamer in Polish, was elected mayor of Warsaw four times in the late 17th and early 18th century. Today in the Polish capital you will continue to find celebrations of Robert Burns. Across the border in the Czech Republic, a Burns Supper has been celebrated for a number of years. This year will be its 10th anniversary. The venue changes but the event is very much in keeping with the traditions of other Burns Suppers.

A ‘knees up’ is a lively event typically involving dancing, which is where the phrase comes from.

Burns Night is even becoming an event in Dubai with a large Burns Supper which includes dancing. Hong Kong’s St Andrew’s Society is also getting into the spirit – both figurative and literal – which from the photos looks like a right ol’ knees up.

“When I travelled to China on business in the 1980/90 era I found that my contacts were very familiar with Burns, as his poetry was taught in schools – in translation,” Mr Ballantyne said. A Canadian friend of his even celebrated Burns Night in Mauritius. Most of the attendees were Chinese.

Sláinte is a traditional drinking toast in Scotland and Ireland and literally means health.

From the coastal town of Ayr, Burns’ name is now known throughout the world. So whether it is the poetry, the cuisine or the company, Burns Nights have a lot to offer. Sláinte!

Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia

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