Burns Night 2024

The text of the speech I gave on a belated Burns Night celebration in 2024.

Welcome friends to – (A Belated ) – Burn’s Night 2024!

I’m taking a slight departure from the usual annual rambling to share a bit about Burn’s Night and why I think it’s important.

First the why because it’s always a good place to start.

Denise and I enjoy celebrating some family connections to Scotland. I from the Stewart side of my family and Denise has the Ramsey side.

There’s also our shared love of food and tradition from all over the world.

Last but not least of which is that this is a fine reason to get together during the winter months, celebrate some good cheer and friendships!

Now the what – What is Burn’s Night?

This is a traditional Scottish celebration of the life and poetry of Robert Burns. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland. You’ll hear him referred as “Rabbie Burns”, or just “The Bard” back in Scotland.

Robert Burns was born in 1759, and the first Burns Supper (as it was originally called), was held 5 years after his death in 1796. If you’re a quick study of the maths, you’d be marveling that he only reached 37 years of age. Remarkable to have such an impact on Scotland and the world despite such a short life.

His contributions to Scotland are many, both during his life and after. He was one of the best known poets to have written in the Scots Language. Which you may be surprised to know is considered a “light Scots dialect”. Try listening to someone from Glasgow and you’ll get a taste of what a medium Scots dialect sounds like!

You might also be familiar with the New Year’s Eve song Auld Lang Syne which he wrote for the same time of year in Scotland called Hogmany.

Rabbie Burns is also considered a pioneer of the Romantic movement (which was partly a response to the Industrial Revolution) that began at the end of the 18th century. His prose invokes consideration and provides inspiration to consider humankind’s place in the world, the ravages of war and famine, and the deep and abiding feelings of love between people.

These accomplishments and more have brought global notoriety to Scotland, and helps highlight its contributions to literature, ideology, science and technology.

For all these accomplishments by one young Scot, many in the global Scottish diaspora gather annually on Rabbie Burns birthday which is January 25th. They gather to celebrate the bard with all manner of unique Scottish delicacies.

We’re listening to some find Scottish music tonight, and enjoying some drinks from, or inspired by Scotch Whisky (that’s Whisky than ends in Y and not EY). To be called Scotch, it must come from Scotland.

We also have some Tablet which is very sweet. So sweet because it’s made with sugar, butter and sweetened condensed milk. This is one of many traditional Scottish desserts.

Another tasty dessert is the Dundee Cake, a recipe that has been around since at least the late 1700’s when it was commercially produced, but legend has it that it was developed for Mary, Queen of Scots, who didn’t like candied cherries in her cakes, so this cake was first made for her, as a fruit cake that used blanched almonds and not cherries. The late Queen Elizabeth the second reportedly enjoyed Dundee cake at tea time as well.

Last but certainly not least is our fine Haggis! The Larousse Gastronomique says “Although its description is not immediately appealing (laugh), haggis has an excellent nutty texture and delicious savory flavor!” We agree!

You might be surprised to know that the idea of haggis is not solely Scottish. Other countries and cultures have their own versions.

  • Spain has the Chireta (Chyire-ta) which replaces the oatmeal with rice and is otherwise similar but may also include pancetta or bacon, and cured ham.
  • Greece has Kokoretsi which has a similar preparation but the spices and herbs are more Mediterranean, and is grilled rather than boiled.
  • Saumagen (sow-mahgn) is from Germany and uses beef and pork rather than lamb. It forms more of a sausage consistency and is sliced and crisped up in the oven and served with sauerkraut and white wine. For John, this is very popular in the Pfalz region of Germany if you’re feeling adventurous on your next trip!

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