It was almost exactly this time last year when, for the very first time in my life, I heard about Burns Night. It was January 25th actually (Author’s Note: January 25th is Burns Night) when I cracked open Pippa Middleton’s much-roasted Celebrate to get some recipe ideas for the week ahead. If you’re not familiar with Celebrate, let me explain that the book is divided by season into various events and holidays that the heir of a British family that has made its fortune selling party supplies believes to be worth celebrating. Burns Night falls just after Christmas and New Year’s and before Valentine’s Day. Let’s turn it over to Middleton for a moment:
Burns Night is the culmination of the Scottish winter festivals…It celebrates the life and work of Robert Burns, widely regarded as Scotland’s national poet…The format of the celebration largely depends on what you want to make of it: a black-tie affair that includes all the pomp of the night with bagpiping, toasts, speeches, and dancing, or a simple supper (perhaps a Highland tea) at home with friends and family accompanied by a few poems from the Scottish bard’s work.
Despite not being much of a Burns fan and only being Scotch-Irish (it’s not really the same) I was immediately sold on our foursome celebrating this holiday. “Listen up, gang,” I yelled down the hallway of our condo. “There’s been a change in plans. It’s Burns Night.”
Deciding it’s time to get ready to celebrate a holiday when it’s the morning of the actual holiday requires kind of a frenzied pace. We spent the rest of the day gathering groceries for pseudo-Scottish food, buying whiskey at the liquor store, digging through our linen closet for something plaid to use as a table runner (a baby blanket my sister made for Nathan would have to do), and putting a delicious batch of millionaire’s shortbread into the oven around midday.
Admittedly we flubbed up this holiday. We always will, and that’s for a few obvious reasons:
1.) We’re Americans.
2.) We were completely unwilling to eat haggis, which must be served on this evening. There is even a toast to the haggis. We still couldn’t stomach the idea of eating this meat mixture that contains a sheep’s heart and kidneys and is, frankly, served in an old stomach.
3.) We don’t have anyone to play the bagpipes. We did, however, listen to BBC Radio Scotland on my laptop while we ate, and I would argue that was quite nice.
4.) We remain only rainy-day fans of Robert Burns, who is the whole point of this evening.
And now you must be thinking, Why celebrate this thing, Chels? And all I know to answer is that I love celebrating this holiday. I adore it. Maybe it’s because we’ve just juggled Thanksgiving and Christmas, and no one is calling me saying, “When are you getting here on Burns Night? We really need to plan this thing.” I don’t feel any pressure about it. On Burns Night last year we just did our own crazy thing, and it felt lovely and wonderful. It’s this feeling I’m trying to impart on you. That’s why this week on the blog it’s BURNS NIGHT WEEK. I’m planning on multiple posts because there’s too much material here to cram into a single post. Next up? Burns Night Crafts.
Yes, I know how that sounds.
Where to buy: You can purchase Pippa Middleton’s Celebrate: A Year of Festivities for Family and Friends (2012) on Amazon. My lovely friend Lexa gave me my copy.