Every January, a strange, ritualistic phenomenon occurs. It consists of a shrieking, wailing soundtrack, eerie chanting in a language which is barely recognizable as English, the consumption of organ meats ground into a mealy dish and the sudden assumption of ritual garments of eye-searing patterns and men in skirts.
I refer of course, to Robbie Burns Day.
January 25th is the birthday of the Scottish poet, Robert Burns. Burns, a man who wrote in the Scots dialect, was a farmer, womanizer and died at the age of 37, having become famous in his own time. He wrote many famous poems, including Auld Lang Syne, Tam o’ Shanter and To a Mouse, which contains the famous lines “The best laid plans of mice and men”, among many others.
As a person of Scottish descent (on my father’s side), I’ve been to dozens of Robbie Burns nights over the course of my life. I began playing in a pipe band when I was 13, until I was 22 or so (tenor drum), and my brother continues (bagpiper). As a matter of fact, loads of relatives on my dad’s side play or have played. My cousin is a side drummer, one of my aunts and my uncle both are bagpipers and my other aunt is a tenor drummer. My dad is the only one of his siblings who never played.
I’ve become an aficionado of haggis and pipe music (I can definitely tell when either are done badly)…but not Scotch whiskey (the “good stuff” is absolutely wasted on me). I love the look of a man in a kilt (despite my description above, it’s NOT A SKIRT!), and our family has located the official tartan of our clan (Skene).
My story of how I became a lover of haggis (the good stuff, of course…). My family would often have haggis throughout the year with roast beef and I would be given a tiny piece. When I tried it, and shuddered with disgust, my mother would just smile and say, “Well, I suppose you’re not quite old enough to like it yet.” and I’d be darned if I wasn’t going to be old enough the next time. Repeat for ten years or so, and eventually I got to the point where I thoroughly enjoy haggis and look forward to it. Child psychology still works on me. :)
So, happy Robbie Burns Day, happy birthday to The Scottish Bard and may we always toast his immortal memory!
To Robbie Burns!