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Robert Burns â€“ widely held as Scotlandâ€™s greatest poet – was born on 25th January. To mark the occasion of his birth, people across the globe celebrate Burns Night on that day each year. But what form do traditional Burns Night revels take, and why is Robert Burns a poet worth celebrating?
If you’ve just dived headfirst into your 11 plus journey, take some time out to explore the rituals of Burns Night and some key facts about the man himself, Robert Burns.
Burns Night is a commemoration of the life and legacy of famous poet Robert Burns. First celebrated by Burnsâ€™ own friends and family as a memorial to the writer, it has since become an annual celebration in Scotland â€“ and is now popular with nations across the world. Funnily enough, itâ€™s pretty popular with tutors, too! Robert Burnsâ€™ poetry is lauded for a reason: itâ€™s clever, witty, and often short, therefore it is a perfect introduction to poetry for younger students, and a good exercise in understanding different dialects.
As such, Burns Night is a great way for parents and teachers alike to get children thinking about literature â€“ because the traditional celebrations tend to encompass not only a Scottish-themed feast, but also plenty of Robert Burnsâ€™ poetry.
Traditionally, Burns Night is celebrated with the donning of tartan, the flying of the Saltire flag, and the eating of a great supper featuring that all-important Scottish component, haggis. Haggis is a savoury dish comprises of minced sheepâ€™s heart, lungs and liver. It is bound with spices, suet, onion, oats and stock, and during Burns Night it is afforded great pomp: it is customary for the dish to be announced with bagpipes and delivered to the table by the chef.
But first of all, before the meal begins, the â€˜Selkirk Graceâ€™ (a prayer attributed by Robert Burns) should be recited:
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be Thankit!
When itâ€™s time for the main course and the haggis has been served, the host should recite Burnsâ€™ â€˜Address to a Haggisâ€™, which begins:
Fair faâ€™ your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftain oâ€™ the Puddin-race!
Aboon them aâ€™ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang â€˜s my arm.
If old Burns Night customs are adhered to, the host should stab the haggis with a traditional dagger (called a dirk) and finish his address with a toast to the dish. Thereâ€™s no rule about how the haggis should be prepared, though it would be customary to see the classic accompaniments of â€˜neepsâ€™ (turnips) and â€˜tattiesâ€™ (potatoes) served alongside.
It would also not be uncommon to end the meal with plenty of whisky, some rousing choruses of Auld Lang Syne (also attributed to Robert Burns), and perhaps some ceilidh dancing!
Robert Burns was born on 25th January 1759, and has been referred to as â€˜the greatest Scot of all timeâ€™. Sadly, he died of rheumatic fever when he was just 37; but, before doing so, he composed more than 550 poems and songs. He is also known for his political views: an outspoken revolutionary thinker, Burns â€“ popularly known as â€˜Rabbie Burnsâ€™ â€“ was a key source of inspiration to future liberal and socialist movements.
Here are some key facts about â€˜Rabbie Burnsâ€™:
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