Monday, January 21, 2008

Rabbie Burns and Some Auld Lang Syne

Erica Douglas at with Daughter ErinErica Douglas at is guest posting all the way from Scotland and if you've not yet met her you're in for a treat. Littlemummy is a great source of parenting and teaching ideas and recently Erica's run a series of posts on how to incorporate ads into your blog that are invaluable. Today she's bringing us visions of Scottish life . . .


Michelle and I have something in common--we both live in the north of our respective countries--Michelle in Alaska, I in Edinburgh. I've lived in Scotland for the best part of my life so it seems fitting to share a little culture from the country I'm proud to call home.

Robert Burns, Scottish PoetThe famous Scottish poet Robert Burns is a source of great national pride, here we call him Rabbie Burns and every winter we celebrate his life on January 25th--which is believed to be his birthday. I'm not sure if the Scots just made that up when they realized that Hogmanay was over and needed an excuse for a party.

Rabbie's most famous work is a song that most of us have tried to sing on New Year's Eve: "Auld Lang Syne" which is known for being sung incorrectly or slurred as the alcohol from the New Year's Eve party kicks in. Here are the actual words:

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

Chorus.-For auld lang syne, my dear,
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 tak a cup o'kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
For auld, &c.

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou'd the gowans fine;
But we've wander'd mony a weary fit,
Sin' auld lang syne.
For auld, & chorus.

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.
For auld, &c.

And there's a hand, my trusty fere!
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right gude-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.
For auld, & chorus.

"Auld Lang Syne" loosely translates as "old long-ago" and to me it's a song about reflecting on the past, reconnecting with old friends and drinking to what's gone while looking forward to the future, which fits nicely with a new year. My own memory of "Auld Lang Syne" is forming a large circle with friends and family, crossing arms then going in and out with something akin to the hokey cokey (and as a seven year-old practically getting crushed to death). Lots of fun!

The highlight of each January 25th is the traditional Burns supper and the reciting of his works. Individual suppers vary and will depend on the ages and styles of the guests, at school it may be all about the poetry and the ceremonial entrance of the haggis but an adult supper may involve bagpipe music, stories and Scotch whiskey. This year have your own Burns Supper--it's fun, it's different, and think of the culture! Imagine your child going to school and impressing his teacher with tales of his Burns Supper--that'll make up for many a forgotten sports kit!

Holding Your Own Burns Supper

Haggis on January 25thThe traditional meal consists of haggis, neeps and tatties. Haggis is a mixed organ meat and suet concoction stuffed and boiled in a sheep's stomach which I loathe, but don't let that put you off--it's a little like marmite, you either love it or hate it. Neeps is the Scottish word for turnips which are simply mashed and seasoned--tatties (aka potatoes) should also be served mashed. If you'd like a more in-depth recipe try this. The haggis is usually carried in on a platter to the sound of the bagpipes but not before the Selkirk Grace is said, which is the job of the youngest family member. After the meal each family member takes a turn reciting a poem by Robert Burns, a very popular choice for children is "To A Mouse."

If you have children you could go all out and have a day of Scottish themed crafts and baking. Scottish shortbread anyone? Or how about making some paper woven placemats (remember those?) For a tartan effect try strips of green and grey or red, black and yellow. But the most important thing is to have fun, and don't forget to round it all off with a couple of verses of Auld Lang Syne!

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Robin said...

What a lovely, interesting post.

I can't abide even the thought of haggis, but my family is sorely addicted to marmite, which in a devastatingly cruel twist of fate has suddenly become unavailable in Israel. We haven't been able to find it for months now. Our eggs on toast just aren't the same without it *sniff*.

(By the way, the link for the Selkirk Grace is broken.)

Maytal said...

I found a great scottish recipe. My family liked it alot and maybe you should try it as well:


ewe are here said...

Oooh, I will have to check out her blog, seeing as my husband hails from Edinburgh.

Oh how we miss it... so very different from Cambridge.

Jacki said...

Cool! I will have to pop over and meet her. I lived in Scotland from 1990-1993, during my teenage years, and loved it.

Babystepper said...

Because of a tiny bit of Scottish heritage, my father has always thought it important to teach us about all things Scottish. I never thought haggis sounded delicious, but I have to say that now that I've seen a picture, I have even less desire to ever eat it. =)

Scones, now, I love scones.

Erica Douglas said...

Pop over for a chat anytime folks :)

I think if you like black pudding then you tend to like haggis! I don't like either, but then I'm pretty fussy.

A good quality sausage would make up for the lack of haggis in a traditional supper. Or mince in gravy, I think some of you guys call it ground hamburger??

Making myself hungry now...

MommyTime said...

I love the idea of any festival that involves reciting poetry. (The link for "To a Mouse" is broken, though.) I think we will have to do this at our house this year -- with the sausage substitute, though, since I'm not brave enough to try haggis. Maybe we'll cook it in a ball and dress it up on a plate to approximate the haggis.

Erica, if you're checking these comments, can you tell me if Scotch eggs are actually a Scottish food? They were my favorite picnic food in the two years I lived in England. If they are, do you have a favorite recipe to make them at home?

Erica Douglas said...

Hi mommytime, I'm always hanging around scribbit's articles and comments :)

I've never known scotch eggs to be traditionally Scottish, I doubled checked on wikipedia and they confirmed that they are not a Scottish dish but were invented by Fortnum and Mason of London (a swanky food shop).

However, we used to make them for our party buffets - we hard-boiled the eggs, de-shelled then wrapped them in sausage meat (making a ball), dip in beaten egg, roll in breadcrumbs and deep fry. I helped make these at about seven or eight so they must have been pretty simple to do :) good luck

Christine said...

Thank you Erica for a delightful and intersting post! If you don't mind I'll pass on the haggis, I wouldn't mind trying the Marmite,Now scones I adore.

Maddy said...

I think it's only fair to confirm that Haggis isn't quite as ghastly as it might sound.

Jordan (MamaBlogga) said...

Scots wha hae! My husband lived in Scotland for two years as a missionary—and wore a kilt for our wedding!

I do have to second Maddy: haggis isn't that bad. I've only been to one Burns Supper (and thankfully, the haggis wasn't still in the stomach, because—GROSS), but I lived!

MommyTime said...

Thanks for the recipe for Scotch eggs. I love that it's exactly what one would guess from eating them... and yet so much more than one would guess in terms of deliciousness. It always seemed to me like there must be some secret ingredient I couldn't possibly know of to make them so good. Can't wait to try to make them at home.

Erica Douglas said...

They are the best recipes mommytime!

aminah said...

This was soo informative! I am born and brought up in Scotland and even i didn't know the words, hand in hand with friends and aquaintances every new year, wailing a bundle of made up words! ha. thank you for that! aminah

Damselfly said...

Even though my stepfather was from Scotland, fortunately we never had to eat haggis. He did, however, enjoy a rutabaga quite often ... sort of like turnips.

In college, a professor of mine was a Burns "expert" and we studied Auld Lang Syne and other poems to *death*!!!

Magpie said...

If you need a "haggis", you can get one here:

For several years, we attended a Burns dinner complete with men in kilts and a haggis and my husband reciting the "Ode to A Haggis". Which he still does at every chance he gets.