To celebrate the birthday of the country’s best-known poet, Rabbie Burns (1759–96), Scots all over the world gather together for a Burns Supper on January 25. Strictly speaking, a piper should greet the guests until everyone is seated ready to hear the first bit of Burns’ poetry, The Selkirk Grace:

 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.

At this point the star attraction of the evening, the haggis, is piped in on a silver platter, after which someone reads out Burns’s Ode to a Haggis, beginning with the immortal line, “Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face/Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race!”. During the recitation, the reader raises a knife (“His knife see Rustic-labour dight”), pierces the haggis, allowing the tasty gore to spill out (“trenching its gushing entrails”), and then toasts the haggis with the final line (“Gie her a Haggis!”). After everyone has tucked into their haggis, tatties and neaps, someone gives a paean to the life of Burns along with more of his poetry. A male guest then has to give a speech in which women are praised (often ironically) through selective quotations from Burns, ending in a Toast to the Lassies. This is followed by a (usually scathing) reply from one of the Lassies, again through judicious use of Burns’s quotes. Finally, there’s a stirring rendition of Burns’s poem, Auld Lang Syne, to the familiar tune.


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