17 In Expat Life

Traditional Burns Night in Stirling

If you have ever lived in Scotland, or visited Scotland, or read about Scotland, you will know that the national poet is Robert Burns.

Because he is widely loved here, the 25 January, his birthday, is now celebrated every year in his honour as Burns Night. People have dinners and ceilidhs, wear their tartan and eat haggis. It is a night of fun and of everything Scottish!

Even though I first moved to Scotland in 2012, 2015 was the year in which I was to have my first ever real Burns Night experience!

burns night

I haven’t talked much about my new job and I probably won’t much – let’s keep business and pleasure separate, right? – but I will say that I work for the department that organised this and so I quickly jumped on two tickets for the Brit and I. The events sells out every year and it didn’t take long for this year either.

So on the Thursday following the true Burns Night, and only a couple of days after we moved, even though we were both exhausted and our house still looked like a mess, we headed to campus, to the Stirling Court Hotel for a typical Scottish tradition. I convinced the Brit to wear his kilt and I donned a nice little black dress.

burns night 2

We arrived and were pleasantly surprised to see a full ballroom set up, the tables were full of people already seated waiting for the speeches and the dinner to start. Without knowing about it, it ended up that many of the Brit’s colleagues were attending so our whole table was part of his department. I said hi to a few colleagues and we sat down to see the night kickoff.

We were greeted by the Deputy Principal who, despite his Irish accent, gave a pretty good (in my opinion) Scottish Selkirk Grace.

Some hae meat and canny eat
Some would eat that want it
But we hae meat and we can eat
Sae let the Lord be thankit

The night started with the very enchanting piping of the haggis, where the chef walked in holding the (humongous) piece of haggis with a bagpiper leading the way. They then stab the haggis and the address begins.

A very lovely and very Scottish gentleman – who apparently goes around various Burns Supper – delivered the address to the haggis and the immortal memory. I didn’t understand much – but trust me in saying you will rarely encounter a people who has such an impassioned speech about such a hideous looking food.

And we were then allowed to dive in our amazing food! The Brit revelled in his haggis, neeps and tatties – he loves haggis! – while I went veggie (and against everything the Burns Night stands for) and was offered risotto (which I preferred to the vegetarian haggis to be honest!). We were also surprised with dessert – a delicious sticky toffee pudding. Ask the Brit – he had like 3 portions!

burns night 3

After dinner and a couple of drinks, we were enchanted by the voice of another lovely man who sang from Burns work. Among other songs, he sang ‘A Red Red Rose’ which might be by far one of my favourite love songs!

We then laughed at the ‘Toast to the Lassies’ – given by a very well spoken fourth year from the drama club. It was totally delightful and politically correct! Women are of course given a chance to respond in the ‘Reply to the Laddies’ – given by a fellow student from the drama club. I was impressed by the level of wit and everything! Definitely would have not been able to write something so nice and funny myself!

burns night 4

The night ended with a completely crazy ceilidh – and I say crazy because there were so many people! Thankfully after the first dance a few people drop out so we had some space to have fun and not be bumped into by people who sadly don’t have rhythm. At least it doesn’t take much to be good at ceilidhs and we had a lot of fun, the Brit and I, dancing the night away!

Ever attended a Burns Night, had haggis or danced a ceilidh?xx

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