At the end of January, we celebrated Robert Burns Night. Burns was a Scottish farmer turned poet who became a celebrity. (He wrote Auld Lang Syne). On Burns’ birthday, January 25, folks celebrate him by eating haggis, neeps, and tatties. Haggis is a runny sausage goo of sheep parts, oats, and spices stuffed into a sheep stomach. Neeps are turnips, cooked and mashed, and tatties are potatoes, cooked and mashed. We were a bit worried about whether we would be able to get this down, but it was surprisingly good. Seriously! Max had three portions and even ate some for the next day.
Along with the meal, we had a wee bit of ceremony. Max carried in the haggis with appropriate reverence and solemnity. We read part of “To The Haggis” that Burns wrote (I’m a bit fuzzy on what the poem means, but the “gushing entrails” part did wonders for our appetite!) Here are a few lines so you can get the taste of it:
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,
We ate our meal to the soundtrack of Brave. After finishing off the meal with a pudding, Katie sang, Grace and Max performed a song and dance honoring Burns, and we gave traditional toasts – the women to the men, and men to the women. It was fun, but I think there is a reason that Scots only eat haggis once a year.
I can’t help adding a few more lines from Burns. Here is the end of “To a Louse” about our foolishness:
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!
If you want to hear actors read some of Burns’ poems (and maybe get some translations), there is a great BBC site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/robertburns/works/