Burns Night: How to celebrate Robbie Burns on 25 January

Robert Burns

Will Burns Night celebrations have added significance in 2014, the year Scotland gets to vote on independence?

LAST UPDATED AT 14:58 ON Wed 22 Jan 2014

IN THE year that Scotland gets to vote on independence, has Burns Night acquired a new significance? Those hoping that Scotland will go it alone after the 18 September referendum will hope that it has.

After all, what better way to stir feelings of nationalistic pride than celebrating the life and poetry of Scotland's national bard on 25 January?

So, who was Robbie Burns?

Robert Burns (aka Robbie Burns, aka Rabbie Burns, aka Scotland's Favourite Son) was a Scottish poet and lyricist. Born into rural poverty, he became a prolific poet who wrote about everyday life using a Scottish vernacular that was already under threat from English in his own lifetime. Burns died at the age of 37, leaving behind a body of work that "recorded and celebrated aspects of farm life, regional experience, traditional culture, class culture and distinctions, and religious practice and belief in such a way as to transcend the particularities of his inspiration", says the Poetry Foundation website.

What are his best-known works?

By far the best-known Burns composition is the traditional New Year's Eve anthem Auld Lang Syne. Other famous works include the epic poem Tam O'Shanter and the romantic A Red, Red Rose.

Just how revered is he in Scotland?

Burns "remains the National Poet of Scotland because Scottish literature ceased with him, thereafter yielding poetry in English or in a pale Anglo-Scots or in inferior and slavish imitations of Burns", says the Poetry Foundation. In 2009, he was chosen as the greatest Scot in a public vote run by Scottish television channel STV. The Robert Burns World Federation website says: "His immortality runs deep in the veins of all Scots, perhaps unknowingly, and he has evolved from mere man to being symbolic of all things Scottish."

Why is Burns Night on 25 January?

Burns Night commemorates the poet's birth in a two-roomed cottage in Alloway, near Ayr, on 25 January, 1759.

How is Burns Night celebrated?

Many people and organisations hold a Burns Night supper on or around 25 January. The evening centres on the entrance of the haggis, which is usually presented on a platter to the sound of bagpipes. Once the haggis is on the table, the host reads the Address to a Haggis. It includes stirring lines such as: "But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed, the trembling earth resounds his tread." At the end of the reading, the haggis is ceremonially sliced into two pieces and the meal begins. · 

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Interesting perspective. We're definitely seeing a lot of interest in the ceremonial chieftain haggis, which is used during Burns Suppers.

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