Robert Burns reading

This Sunday marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scottish poet Robert Burns, a night beloved in the hearts of the Scots, but relatively unknown to most Americans. For those of you uninitiated in Burns Night, it is a celebration in honor of good ol’ Rabbie Burns, and, in true Scottish style, it is bathed in whisky and delicious haggis, neeps, and tatties.

My Scottish husband and I have made it a quest to educate and initiate our friends into the hallowed Burns Night traditions. Last year, we hosted our first Burns Night, and to our great surprise nearly everyone we invited not only showed up, but embraced the event with open arms, trying on their best Scottish brogue and gobbling up the haggis we’d captured out in the wilds of Dixon, CA.

It goes like this, at least at our house: We steam some haggis–which is essentially a big stuffed sausage made from sheep offal, spices, and oats; way more delicious than it might sound–and we make big pots of mashed potatoes (the “tatties”) and smashed rutabagas (the “neeps”). Just before the haggis is brought out and skewered with a large knife, we read Rabbie Burns Address to a Haggis. All the while, the whisky is flowing.

Perhaps it doesn’t sound as fun as it actually ends up being, but then again, you might not have a friend like Traci, who takes a few whisky shots and takes over the room with her rolling Rrrrrrrrs and guttural brogue.

This year, being quite a monumental anniversary, we decided to (or actually, our friends demanded that we) host our 2nd Annual Burns Night. Once again, we drove out to Dixon for some house-made haggis. Although I have to say, after the nearly 5-hour journey, I’m apt to make it myself next year. And while the official night is Sunday January 25th, this year we’ll be celebrating ol’ Rabbie Burns 250th anniversary on Saturday, January 24th. So pull out a poem and read it in your best brogue, have a nip of whisky, and take a bite of sausage (or better yet, haggis!), and give a wee toast to a fabulous poet, who will be celebrated the world over, and at our little home away from Scotland house in San Francisco.

If you are itching to participate in Burns Night 2009, the main event here in SF happens at:
Edinburgh Castle
Saturday January 24 at 8pm, $10 at the door
950 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA
415.885.4074

For those of you out in the Valley, check out:
Canal Street Grille Robert Burns Night
Saturday, January 24th at 6:30pm
1225 Canal Blvd, Ripon, CA, 95366
209.599.4646

  • Cap’n Phealy

    I must, sadly, report that the owners of the Scottish Meat Pie Co. in Dixon have retired, and the store is no more. At least, that’s what they just told me on the phone.

  • kim laidlaw

    oh no! that’s terrible news! but thanks for the update. well, I guess next year I’m definitely going to make my own haggis. There’s a butcher near me who said they sell sheep offal.

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