Ever since we first found out we were going to Scotland, all I wanted was to get E in a kilt. Now I see my fair share of men in kilts on a near weekly basis, especially in the summer. They are regularly worn to church, weddings, anything formal, and the Highland Games- generally by those who own their own kilts. But for a non-Scot, a non-kilt-owner, your only chance is a formal event. Which E’s company has 0. Enter Burns Night! An event honoring Scotland’s favorite poet, Robert Burns on his birthday January 25th.
Burns Suppers are either on his actual birthday, or the Friday and/or Saturday closest to. A lot of the big companies here host their own Burns Suppers, but of course not Erik’s…so I set out to find a public Burns Supper and got a table together. This all was a little last minute, about 2 weeks prior to the event, so options were a little slim. A lot of Burns Suppers were sold out already, but we managed to be able to get a table at the Aberdeen Council’s Burns Supper on Friday (Saturday was sold out) held at the Beach Ballroom in Aberdeen.
So what is involved in a Burns Supper? Well here’s a quick guide. But they can be informal or formal; ours was a mix without a strict dress code. Most men were in kilts though or trews (tartan trousers that are super adorable with suspenders and a dinner jacket), and most women in dresses, though some were casual dresses, some cocktail dresses, some club dresses, and some formal gowns (ha, me!). Anyway, all Burns Suppers follow a pretty traditional schedule. Ours was a Burns Supper was a ceilidh (pronounced /ˈkeɪ.li/ which had a live band and Gaelic folk dancing).
- Piping in the Guests
- Of course you need to be piped in! It’s getting hard for me to go anywhere these days unless I get piped there.
- Ceilidh dancing
- Not a totally full dance floor as no one has had enough drink, but nice opportunity to get totally sweaty before dinner
- Ours started out with the Gay Gordons. Certainly a favorite.
- Welcome Speech and The Selkirk Grace
- Written by Burns of course:
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat
Sae let the Lord be thankit.
- Piping in of the Haggis
- Why wouldn’t the Haggis get piped in? Everyone stands up and the Haggis is brought in on a big platter with it’s own piper, where it’s brought to a table in the center of the room.
- Address to a Haggis
- At the lineHis knife see rustic Labour dicht the speaker normally draws and sharpens a knife, and at the line An’ cut you up wi’ ready slicht, plunges it into the haggis and cuts it open from end to end.
- Haggis, Neeps, Tatties. Your dinner must include this or it’s not a real Burns Night.
- Works by Burns
- I’m not sure what exactly our MC read and sang…but there was reading of poetry and singing of Rabbie B’s works.
- Ceilidh dancing
- You’re cooled down, fed, and have more booze in your system. It’s time to dance. Have no clue how to ceilidh? Nae bother. They yell out instructions and every when it gets too complicated, pretend you are a river dancer and no one will know or care you’re just a jackass American.
- Strip the Willow is the crowd pleaser and was played last at our supper. I think it should be played last at all events due to the mass amount of chaos going on. I tried to find the best example of it but unfortunately there are only videos with small groups. Our dinner had about 3 groups of at least 70 people in each grouping (35 men and 35 women). It was total pandemonium.
- The Closing
- Everyone gives thanks to the great evening, stands in a big circle holding hands, and sings Auld Lang Syne (another hit by Rabbie!)
That’s a Burns Night!
I’m really glad to have done this. As an expat you never really know how long you’ll be around and I wanted to take advantage of something so quintessentially Scottish. I think as long as we’re here neat year and still have friends here, I’ll try and do it again. There seems to be some posh Burns Suppers held at various hotels around Aberdeen- so that’s the 2017 Burns Supper Goal! I’ll start dress shopping now….