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Bagpipes, toasts, haggis and poetry are the hallmarks of one of Scotland's best events of the calendar year. Burns Night is a raucous and lively dedication to Robert Burns, Scotland's national poet. For travelers who want to experience Scotland on one of its proudest, most memorable nights, now is the time to start planning a trip.
The man behind the evening
Robert Burns was born in Scotland in 1759. By the age of 27, he had become famous for a number of his romanticist and pastoral poems, according to the BBC. He earned the nickname the Ploughman Poet and moved to Edinburgh, where he became a part of a wealthy and influential circle of cosmopolitans. Despite financial troubles throughout his life and a number of illicit affairs, he continued to publish famous and influential poetry well into his later years. By the time he died in 1796 - only at the age of 37 - he had become so beloved that he was buried with full civil and military honors.
A formal affair
Today, the celebrated poet is the centerpiece of a lively evening of food, drink and entertainment. While it has become a highly anticipated event, Scots celebrate in a myriad of ways, from the casual to the incredibly formal. For those following a traditional Burns Night, there is an orderly procession throughout the evening, as listed by the BBC.
The event starts vigorously enough as bagpipers welcome newcomers. A round of applause follows, signaling the moment for the Chairman's welcome. The Chairman - or the host - then gives his warm regards, provides introductions and welcomes in the entertainment. A four-line prayer called The Selkirk Grace is read before the festivities really begin.
Perhaps the most iconic section of the formal Burns Night is piping in the haggis. The signature Scottish dish is brought in on a silver platter with a procession of bagpipers and a designated whiskey-bearer to refill glasses. Burns' famous "To a Haggis" is read just before the haggis is enthusiastically split along its side. Toasts are made to the haggis, the meal and plenty of drink are served, and entertainers sing Burns songs before a dramatic, witty and colorful reading of Burns' life is read. The night is capped with more entertainment and a humorous and lighthearted toast to women is given.
Planning a Burns Night
Travelers have the option of finding hosts for an intimate Burns Night, or they can head into Edinburgh for an evening on the town. Visit Scotland has suggested a Burns Supper at the Prestonfield House Hotel or the well-stocked Whiski Bar.
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