Marking the birthday of Robbie Burns is an institution of Scottish life and some lively celebrations are being held in Nanoose Bay Jan. 24 and 25.
When Burns immortalized haggis in verse he created a tradition that is maintained to this day by millions of people all over the world who celebrate their Scottish heritage with an annual Robbie Burns Supper.
Once a year the fervour inspires impassioned dinner speeches and provides a good excuse for whisky drinking.
Highlights of any Robbie Burns festival often include the bagpipes, Scotsmen in kilts and the reading of Burns’ poem To A Haggis.
But no Robbie Burns’ feast would be complete without the dish of choice — haggis — the pudding of all puddings.
Traditionally it is made from sheep’s offal, beef suet and lightly toasted oatmeal, then it is placed inside the sheep’s stomach and boiled.
A big-time Burns night is kicked off with a piper and those in attendance are asked to stand to receive the haggis.
A piper then leads the chef, carrying the haggis to the top table, while the guests accompany them with a slow handclap.
An invited guest then recites Burns’ famous poem To A Haggis, with great enthusiasm. When he reaches the line ‘an cut you up wi’ ready slight’, he cuts open the haggis with a sharp knife.
The ritual was started by close friends of Burns a few years after his death in 1796 as a tribute to his memory and more than 200 years later the basic format has remained unchanged.
A Robbie Burns night will be held on Saturday, January 24 at the Rocking Horse Pub in Nanoose Bay. Tickets are $15 to enjoy some energetic jigs by local band Celtic Chaos.
Traditional Scottish food is also available. The festivities begin at 5 p.m. For tickets call 250-468-1735.
There is also an event Sunday, Jan. 25 at the Fairwinds Clubhouse restaurant in Nanoose Bay starting at 5 p.m.
You can celebrate on the official birthday of the Scottish poet with a night of line dancing, music by Celtic Chaos, poetry, and a traditional Burns supper, including haggis and roast beef for $40 per person.
The toast to the haggis will be performed by John Beaton of Celtic Chaos.
Although Beaton is originally from Scotland he said he performed his first toast to the haggis in Qualicum Beach about 25 years ago and since then he has been enthusiastically reflecting on the life and works of Burns every year.
“For me it started at the Legion, then at our own Burns supper in our house. It takes a bit of work to make it entertaining. I have my own immortal memory poem and I change it every year. It is always fun. I like entertaining the audience,” he agreed.
For 10 years the Beaton’s organized a Burns event at Qualicum Beach Community Hall with Ceilidh dancing, poetry, traditional toasts and of course the haggis, being piped in by a world renowned bag piper.
Beaton said when he visits family in Scotland he enjoys the local food including haggis.
“In Scotland’s fish and chips shops you can get haggis and chips. I always say it’s the best organic food because it’s all organs.’
If you enjoy smashed tatties and choppid neeps along with your haggis be sure to get tickets for the Robbie Burns Night at Fairwinds. Phone 250-468-9915 or visit fairwinds.ca.