Honoring One’s Heritage

Sarah Ritchie Family Celebrations, Holidays

My celebrancy work has been a potent catalyst in my exploring my ancestral connection to Scotland.  Although I visited Glasgow and Edinburgh decades ago, it wasn’t until I had the pleasure of working with Scottish couples that I felt a deeper connection to this part of the U.K., learning about their history, customs, holidays, and such.   And, so today, I bow to Scots around the globe who are partaking in Burns Night celebrations.  While I won’t be partaking in one of the many Burns Night suppers in New York City, I have taken the opportunity to learn more about the occasion.

As one would imagine, the festive dinner honors Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns.  It takes place on or around January 25, the date of his birth (in 1759).  Apparently, the first Burns Night was held on the Fifth anniversary of his death.  Whether formal or informal, the events focus on music, food, drink, poetry – and tartan, of course…all things Scottish. 

There order of ceremony, so to speak, begins with pipers greeting guests with traditional Scottish music.  After a greeting by the host, grace is said, most typically the Selkirk Grace, a well-known thanksgiving prayer in the Scottish language

Some hae meat an canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit

Although the soup course is first, it is the Haggis that is the culinary star of the show.  For those unfamiliar with this delicacy, it is a savory pudding containing sheep’s pluck, minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock and cooked, while traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach.   I tried this years ago in the Highlands—it was milder than I expected, but the texture was somewhat disarming.  It should be on Anglophile’s “bucket list.”

At the Burns dinner, guests stand as a vast portion is delivered to the host’s table, with bagpipe accompaniment.  The host will “address” the Haggis.

Other courses flow, all with copious amounts of Scotch whiskey.  And, of course, toasts abound.  The primary speaker will remember Burns’s life and cite some of his well known poetry.     This is followed by a light-hearted “Address to the Lassies,” and their rejoinder, “a Reply to the Laddies.”  By this time of the evening, it is a scotch-fueled comic “Battle of the Sexes.”

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou’d the gowan fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fitt,
Sin’ auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin’ auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willie-waught,
For auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my jo,
 For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.