Held around 25 January in Scotland and abroad, Burns night celebrates the legendary Scottish bard, Robert Burns. It's a great excuse to wear plaid, eat some traditional Scottish food, and read aloud some poetry. The tradition started sometime after his death in 1796 by several of his friends and it has since expanded into a delightful evening of food, drink, and poetry.
For the meal portion, traditionally, it would begin with the Selkirk prayer - recited in Scots, of course:
Then, the haggis is brought around, traditionally on a silver platter with a piper in the background, as the host recites "Great Chieftain of the Puddin'-Race" and all the guests toast the haggis. The haggis is cut open and the dinner begins. Why does the haggis have to be cut, one might ask? Oh, that's because this delicacy is made up of sheep's heart, liver, and lungs, some oatmeal, sausage, spices, and onion, all encased in a sheep's stomach. Yum. Sorry, my American friends, but you won't find real haggis in the States, as sheep's lung is banned as a food and considered inedible.
Often the meal begins with a soup course consisting of traditional soups including Cullen Skink, or cock-a-leekie. Naturally, the main dish consists of haggis, neeps, and tatties (haggies, turnip, and potatoes). I'm not the biggest fan of haggis, nor am I a huge fan of neeps on their own, but I managed to find a recipe from BBC that combines the neeps and tatties and it looks excellent. Many also boil the two together and mash them up, throw some salt and pepper on there and just combine the carb and veg into a big mash.
Following the main course is the dessert course made up of something as simple as shortbread, to the always tasty cranachan. (Aaron made cranachan a few weeks ago and it was absolutely delicious. I was a bit unsure of it at first, but it ended up being a definite winner!) Sometimes a coffee and cheese course is served as well after the dessert course.
Following the meal is the toasts portion of the evening. One gives a toast in memory of Robbie Burns, called the Immortal Memory toast. Then a toast is given to the Lassies to thank them for preparing the meal. The women respond to the toasts as well, making it a rather lively exchange! After the toasts, generally, are various readings from Burns, and the entire evening concludes with Auld Lang Syne.
All in all, it's a splendid evening and a beautiful way to celebrate with friends and family in the midst of cold January.