Happy Robert Burns Day!!

Well everyone, today is the big day! It is the 249th anniversary of Robert Burns',or as the Scots affectionately call him, "Rabbie" Burns' birthday!

I've been blogging about Burns Supper's recently. Has anyone out there in blogland attended their own Burns Supper? Anyone out there brave enough to actually host a Burns Supper?

Well, last weekend I participated in my own Burns Supper, and never was there a more appropriate day to blog about my own Burns Supper experience than on the day of celebration itself. So I already talked about how my evening started, with the Kirkin' o' the Tartan. I don't believe I mentioned though that there was a piping component to this too, a couple of the piper's from my band started the service by playing Highland Cathedral and than at the end of the service they played Amazing Grace.

So after the Kirkin' o' the Tartan we settled into the dining area for dinner. There were about 50 people in attendance and the room seemed filled to capacity. Pipers and their guests got preferential seating and I found myself sitting right in front of the head table.

The meal started with some kind of a chicken soup:

Next up was the main dish, really the main event.

"Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!
Aboon them a' yet tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o'a grace
As lang's my arm."

Yes folks, it was Haggis time. It was literally like a Haggis parade. First came a piper, than a drummer, "And then, O what a glorious sight, Warm-reekin', rich!", the Haggis in its place of honor, on a large silver platter. The Haggis was marched all around the room so everyone could have a look at it and than placed on the head table.

Burns' Address to a Haggis was read, and appropriately when these lines were read:
"His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright...",

the sghin dubh, or small knife that is typically kept in a piper's hose (sock) was stabbed into the Haggis.

Traditionally, Haggis was made with sheep leftovers, and by leftovers I mean the hear, the lungs, the liver...literally what was left after serving all the other bits of the sheep. They couldn't afford to waste it. So this would be boiled in a sheep's stomach and than spices, salt, and oatmeal might be added to it.
So after the grand entrance of the Haggis we were served a pastry filled with vegetables and chicken called a Bridie. Large bowls were left on tables filled with neeps and tattties, also known as turnips and potatoes.

Finally, on large platters, out came the Haggis. I don't know the exact ingredients in the Haggis that we ate, but I'm sure that it would be considered gourmet next to this. It was mixed with rice and looked like hamburger. It tasted really bland, and tasted like hamburger too. The Haggis I had in Scotland was really spicy tasting, so I was pretty surprised.

Here's my plate, at the bottom is the bridie, all of the white are the neeps and tatties and than at the very top of my plate is the Haggis:

While we were eating a few people stood up and made various speeches about Haggis or poems/song lyrics written by Burns. One of the pipers from my band played Highland Cathedral on the small pipes and a woman sang along. Books of Robert Burns songs were passed out and we sang a few songs out of that.
Traditional toasts were also made, one being the Toast to the Lassies, and the other the Toast to the Lads. Both were well done, and were light in tone overall. The Toast to the Lads was a bit more well done I thought, very tongue in cheek.

Right around the time we had dessert, some sort of trifle, my band decided to get up and play. Now remember, the room we were eating in only held about 50 people; not really big enough to handle the noise of 10 pipers playing. But the dinner hosts were kind enough to supply everyone with a set of ear plugs at their place setting, and it was a Burns Supper after all, everyone had come for a truly Scottish experience and what's more Scottish than bagpipes!

We played two sets. First, Scotland the Brave, Murdo's Wedding and Wings. Our second set was Bathgate Highland Gathering and Suo Guan. So we didn't play very much, but there just wasn't any other decent time to play as people were making toasts. Piping and toasting really aren't mutually inclusive.

After we played people and returned to our seats, we all sang Auld Lang Syne together. Everyone is supposed to link hands and sing this, but my table was anti-social and while we sang, there was no joining of hands. After that, people pretty much packed up and left.

I did however had two issues with the evening. First, a key traditional component was missing from the evening, the Immortal Memory speech. This is supposed to be a speech about the life and works of Robert Burns, it's kind of a key part to the evening since Burns is the whole point of the night. There wasn't really a master of ceremony's, someone leading us through the events of the whole night, so I think that was part of the problem.

My second issue was that I wished we would've been able to do more piping. It's such an adrenaline rush to get all dressed up in my piping gear and play with the band, and we probably played for all of 10 minutes.

Overall, it was an excellent experience and I was quite pleased with my first American Burns Supper.

Anyone else out there have any Burns Supper experiences to share?
Pipe on!


Keydetpiper said...

Thanks for your kind comments about my blog. It sounds like your Burns Dinner was quite a lot of fun. The band I was in when I lived in Pittsburgh did a Burns dinner every year (it was last night, if my memory serves) and I miss going to those.

Kayla said...

My old band just had a Burns Supper last night as well. Lots of fun, decent piping, Scottish dancers, good food.. all around good time. :)

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