As an American, I had no idea what this meant until about a month ago.
Despite dating a Scottish person and living in the UK, the concept of a ‘Burns Night’ never really sank in until I had the brilliant idea to host one.
Generally, I understood that the night was a kind of Scottish themed party honoring the famous Scottish poet Robert “Rabbie” Burns (think “Old Lang Syne” – that New Years song we sing drunkly every year). Little did I know the event itself is a little more than drinking whisky and eating haggis neeps & tatties (Scottish talk for haggis = google it, neeps =turnips, & tatties = potatoes).
The night typically starts off with the ‘piping in of the haggis’. A kind of parading around of the chef and piper in full kilt gear, with his masterpiece and main dish, the haggis, displayed on a large silver platter. Stopping at the front of the room, the piper then gives an ‘address to the Haggis’ which was wittily written by the man of the evening, Robert Burns in old Scots.
Nothing can really replace experiencing this for yourself – but the youtube video below gives you an idea of how it goes:
If you understand any of it..good for you because reading the poem and speeches on paper is a bit like deciphering a puzzle. Such as the next event in the program, Grace.
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.
The funny thing is, if you know a Scot, they do actually speak as the above reads.
After getting the intro and the Grace over with, you finally get the opportunity to enjoy your meal – haggis, neeps & tatties, all washed down with whisky, which is also there to toast with. Meanwhile it is again speech time – a speech dedicated to the Immortal memory of Robert Burns himself
This part is pretty interesting as it is a commemoration to the man himself and the works he gave to the rest of the world; it is the reason for the event. The first real burns night was held in the 18th century by Robert Burns close friends after his untimely death in 1796. It started small and intimate and was meant to be a memorial to the life Burns led.
Since this time it has grown into something more meaningful – and fun – which brings me to the last and final speech or speeches of the evening, the toast to the lassies and the laddies. This toast highlights all the things we love and adore about our opposite sex.
As it was my partner and I hosting the event, we had a bit of fun with the banter back and forth. If your curious/looking for ideas, I posted the toasts below.
A night to remember, the evening ended with a proper ceilidh. Sort of the original Scottish version of square dancing, the night overall was a blast.
TO THE LASSIES
I was honoured this evening to be asked to assist with the event and will take great joy in you all remembering me as the host with the funny accent. If you’re interested in a copy of the transcript, just speak to me at the bar as that’s where you’ll always find the Scotsman.
Our dear females, girls, ladies, lassies. We love you, but we cannot understand you. It had to be said. To ensure a better co-existence, I think it’s time to lay down some ground-rules. I have numbered them all 1 as they’re all as important as each another!
1. Learn to work the toilet seat. You’re a big girl, if it’s up, put it down. We need it up, you need it down. We never complain about it being left down.
1. Crying is blackmail.
1. You have enough clothes
1. You have too many shoes
1. Men know of only 16 basic colours. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a colour. Pumpkin is also a fruit. And we have no idea what mauve is.
It was to womanhood, and to the literary celebration of their many virtues, that Burns devoted so much of his energy. The irresistible beauty, and the sensuality, of the women who inhabited the world of Burns is evidenced by the fact that he fathered no fewer than thirteen (13) children through liaisons with no fewer than five (5) women whose names are known to us. Clearly, Burns enjoyed “the friendship of the thighs,” and found, in that, his greatest inspiration. Burns could not have attained the status he has so long enjoyed, were it not for the fact that he was surrounded by remarkable women. And, aren’t we all? His love of the lassies, is best summarized in this excerpt from Green Grow the Rashes:
Auld Nature swears the lovely dears
Her noblest work she classes;
Her ‘prentice han’ she tried on man,
And then She made the lasses!
And so we toast the daughters of the Celts, and All the members of the fairer sex who are the inheritors of the Spirit of the Celts, as celebrated in the verse of Robert Burns, in all their beauty, dignity, strength, and, yes, in their ferocity.
Gentlemen, please rise…
Together we stand, here in praise
For the women around us and in our days,
Like Robert Burns, he once knew
That we love our lassies, though he had more than a few
They feed our spirit, they feed our soul
For many of us, they fill our bowl.
They care for us, they keep us well
Though occasionally, they make it feel like … heaven.
They teach us manners, they teach us style,
For many of us, that takes quite a while.
They improve with age, while we do not
For that is clear, looking at you lot.
Tonight we stand, here in praise,
So join me lads, let your voices raise.
Prepare to toast, fill up your glasses,
Join me now, to our bonnie lasses.
To the Lasses.
TO THE LADDIES
While I admit my partner did point out a few good points, — and no we can never have too many shoes.— I have to admit I’M GLAD I’M A WOMAN.
In fact, I’m so glad, I wrote a poem about it!
I’m glad I’m a woman, yes I am, yes I am.
I don’t live off of Budweiser, Beer Nuts and Spam.
I don’t ignore my injury, broken bone or infection.
I won’t drive to Hell before I ask for directions.
I don’t get wasted at parties, and act like a clown.
And I know how to put that damned toilet seat down!
I don’t belch in public, I don’t scratch my behind.
I’m a woman you see-I’m just not that kind!
I’m glad I’m a woman, I’m so glad I could sing.
I don’t have body hair like shag carpeting.
It doesn’t grow from my ears or cover my back.
When I lean over you can’t see 3 inches of crack.
And whats on my head doesn’t leave with my comb.
I’ll never buy a toupe to cover my dome.
I’m a woman by chance and I’m thankful, it’s true.
Thank god im a women not a man like you.
Now while I am pretty excited to be a chick – and these things may be true— there is a reason we still tolerate our men.
You see a man needs his lassie as much as a lassie needs her man. In reality our laddies are like pipers in the mist, they bring music to our hearts and many a time a tear to our eye. Lads and lassies go together just like Scotland and the thistle, whiskey and haggis, stars and strips and the union jack.
I may be American by birth, but tonight I am an honorary highland lass representing all the wonderful lasses in this room. So from this highland lass, I ask you lassies gathered here tonight to please stand, seize your drinks and raise your glass.
Lassies I proudly give you our strength, our heart, our laddies.
TO THE LADDIES!