The birthday of Robert Burns (1759-96) on 25 January is celebrated by people of Scottish descent all around the world. The central attraction of the Burns Night festivities is a traditional Burns Supper of haggis served with tatties and neeps (potatoes and mashed swede).
Haggis is a dish made of the heart, lungs and liver of a sheep or calf, chopped up with suet, onions and oatmeal and traditionally boiled in a sheep’s stomach-bag – not everyone’s cup of tea I shouldn’t imagine.
The meal itself begins with the Selkirk Grace, a short rhyme of unknown authorship, though sometimes attributed to Robert Burns:
Some hae meat and canna eat
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit
The company then stand to ‘receive the haggis’, as it is ceremoniously piped into the room and set down in front of the chief guest, who recites Burns’s poem, To a Haggis. Further toasts and speeches follow the meal and the merrymaking continues with poems and songs, including Auld Lang Syne.
Other notable events on 25 January in history include the secret marriage of Anne Boleyn to King Henry VIII in 1533, the birth of Virginia Woolf in 1882 and the opening of the first Winter Olympics in Chamonix in 1924. Not long to go until the opening of this year’s event….