Tag Archives: Scotland

Robert Burns – Celebrating a Scottish Bard


Robert Burns, a famous Scottish poet is celebrated for his many poems, lyrics, and pieces on political and civil issues. When he died, a few of his close friends began to commemorate his life; a few years after the bard had passed. Eventually, the holiday moved to his birth date and has been celebrated then ever since.

A Bit about Robert Burns

Known to the Scots as “Rabbie Burns”, this “Bard of Ayrshire” was born in Alloway, Scotland on January 25, 1759. His most famous work is that time-honored New Year’s Eve song, Auld Lang Syne, and sung in many parts of the world. Scotland’s “favorite son” had a short but productive life and died in Dumfries, Scotland on July 21, 1796.

Burns Night Menu

What is a holiday without food, right? Well, the Scots have the Burns Night menu well planned. In fact, there’s a long-standing ceremony to this celebration, even an order to the food service.

  • Cock-a-Leekie Soup – made of roasted chicken, chicken stock, leeks, and prunes. The soup is often thickened with rice or barley.
  • Haggis – minced organ meat of a sheep, mixed with beef or mutton suet, and oatmeal, seasoned with cayenne pepper and other spices. It’s boiled in the stomach of a sheep.
  • Neeps and Tatties – boiled mashed swede (rutabaga) and mashed potatoes.
  • Whisky – a dram is taken during the main course of haggis, neeps, and tatties.
  • Cranachan – made from a mixture of fresh raspberries covered in whipped cream, whisky, honey, and toasted oatmeal that has been soaked overnight in a little bit of whisky. It’s served with sweet oat wafers.
  • Clootie Dumpling – a dessert made of flour, bread crumbs, dried fruit (sultanas and currants), suet, sugar, spices, milk, and sometimes golden syrup. It’s wrapped in a floured cloth and simmered in boiling water for a couple of hours. It is then lifted out and dried in an oven before it’s served.
  • Bannock – a flatbread made of oatmeal and wheat flour, baked in a pan. Bannocks are often served with a cheese board, after the meal and dessert, accompanied by tea and coffee.

Burns Night Running Order

There is a sequence of events to a Burns Night meal that involves music, poetry, and a bit of poking fun. This is the typical running order of the celebration.

  • Piper’s Welcome – traditionally guests are welcomed with bagpipe or other classic Scottish music. At formal gatherings, top table guests are “piped in” to the dining room.
  • The Selkirk Grace – in honor of Robert Burns’ visit to the Earl of Selkirk where he was asked to say “grace” at a meal. It’s typically recited before dinner is served.

Some folk hae meat that canna eat,
And some can eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
So let the Lord be thanket!

  • Parade of the Haggis – a piper leads the chef, who carries the plated haggis, into the dining room playing some traditional tune on his bagpipes.
  • Address to the Haggis – the designated reader will recite Burn’s Address to a Haggis. An apology is made for “killing the haggis” and a knife is plunged into the haggis to slice it open whilst this phrase is spoken: “An’ cut you up wi’ ready slight” (“And cut you up with skill”)
  • The Meal – the haggis is piped back into the kitchen and prepared for dinner. It is removed from the sheep casing and served with neeps and tatties.

Music, Poetry, and Sarcasm

After the Burn’s Night dinner, the festivities continue with all sorts of entertainment and sarcastic remarks. It’s all done in fun with the heckling and table-thumping replies. After all, it’s tradition.

  • Burns Night Address – known as the Immortal Memory, a pre-selected guest will give a speech in honor of the life and works of Robert Burns. The address is concluded with guests standing, raising their glasses, and toasting “To the immortal memory of Robert Burns!”
  • Songs and Music – singers and musicians will perform a Robert Burns song or two such as My Luve is Like a Red, Red Rose or Rantin’ Rovin’ Robin.
  • Poetry Readings – the music is typically followed by some readings of Burns poetry such as Tam o’Shanter or To a Louse.
  • Toast to the Lassies – the males of the party are to praise the role of women in the world today. To offer something particular to the ladies present is, of course, more meaningful. This is usually done by quotes from Robert Burn’s works, which often humorously pokes fun at women’s idiosyncrasies.
  • Reply From the Lassies – it’s generally given by a female, who will try and say something nice about men and often throw in lighthearted sexist remarks.
  • Words From the Host – the host thanks the attendees for coming and for those who participated in the night’s celebrations.
  • Auld Lang Syne – the guests are invited by the host to join hands and sing a round of Auld Lang Syne.

Your Burns Night Experience

Honestly, I would love to attend one of these celebrations. I’ve never had haggis or whisky before and I know I would need the later in order to eat the former.

If you sign up for my newsletter before Thursday this week, I’ll have a special Robert Burns poetry infographic for you!

Have you participated in a Burns Night commemoration? If so, please log into our website and post your comments on this blog post. Cheers, mates!

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Flags of the United Kingdom

From last week’s blog post, you saw how the United Kingdom represents several nations and each has a national flag for their respective countries.

Flag of England


The “red cross” as an emblem of England can be traced back to the Middle Ages. It is widely believed Richard I, the Lionheart, adopted both this flag and patron saint (St. George) of Genoa, Italy at some point during his crusade. This emblem, the red cross of St. George, was worn by English soldiers from the early years of the reign of Edward I (1270s). The flag of St. George remained the ensign of England for other purposes until the Acts of Union 1707 (Union with Scotland).

Current Use

Churches belonging to the Church of England may fly the St. George’s Cross but only with the arms of the diocese in the left-hand upper corner of the flag. The flag of St. George is also the rank flag of an Admiral in the Royal Navy, and civilian craft are forbidden to fly it. Though the flag has no official status within the UK, it has been used ever increasingly, particularly at national sporting events, since the 1990s.

Flag of Wales


This flag incorporates the Red Dragon of Cadwaladr, King of Gwynedd, along with the Tudor colors of green and white to represent the Welsh dynasty of 1485. During the reign of Henry VIII, the Laws in Wales Acts was passed in 1536 and 1543 which then created a single state and legal jurisdiction, effectively annexing Wales to England. Due to this official acquisition by England, Wales is not represented on the Union Flag, other than the cross of St. George (patron saint of England). It was officially recognized as the Welsh national flag, after successful lobbying of Gorsedd of Bards and others, by Queen Elizabeth II in 1959.

Current Use

Today the flag can be seen flying from the Senedd in Cardiff, and from the Wales Office in Whitehall, London each day.

Flag of Scotland


The Saltire or the Saint Andrew’s Cross represents the cross of the patron saint of Scotland on a blue field. According to legend, Saint Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross at Patras (Patrae) in Greece. It first appears in the Kingdom of Scotland in 1180 during the reign of William I. It was again depicted on seals used during the late 13th century, including on one used by the Guardians of Scotland, dated 1286. In June 1285, the Parliament of Scotland decreed that Scottish soldiers serving in France would wear a white Saint Andrew’s Cross, both in front and behind, for identification.

After the proclamation by King James, made on April 12, 1606, the Saltire became one of the key components in the creation of the Union Flag.

Current Use

The Saltire is the official flag for all individuals and corporate bodies to fly in order to demonstrate both their loyalty and Scottish nationality.

Flag of Northern Ireland

Over the centuries, there have been several flags representative of Northern Ireland, mainly in an unofficial capacity. The most common are Ulster Banner and the Saint Patrick’s Saltire.



  • Ulster Banner – The Ulster Banner was the official flag used to represent the Government of Northern Ireland from 1953 to 1973. When the Parliament of Northern Ireland was dissolved by the British government under the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973, the flag ceased to have official standing. However, several sports and media organizations use the flag to represent teams and athletes from Northern Ireland for various sporting events.


  • Saint Patrick Saltire – Also known as the Cross of Saint Patrick, after the patron saint of Ireland. The association with Saint Patrick dates from the 1780s, when the Order of Saint Patrick, a British chivalric order, was established in 1783 by George III. Still used by some Unionists, the Church of Ireland, some family clans, and various Irish organizations in which these symbols are incorporated. One such assimilation is in the badge of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, most Irish nationalists reject its use to represent Ireland as a “British invention”.


Union Flag – Though these other flags are used in unofficial capacities, the Union Flag is the only true flag of Northern Ireland.

Union Flag


Since 1801, via the Acts of Union 1800, the Union Flag is the national flag of the United Kingdom which officially represents England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The flag also has an official or semi-official status in some other Commonwealth realms. It is, by law, an official flag in Canada and known there as the Royal Union Flag. Additionally, it is used as an official flag in some smaller British overseas territories. The Union Flag also appears in the canton (upper left-hand quarter) of the flags of several nations and territories that are former British possessions or colonies.

Other Flags

Royal Standard


The first and fourth quadrants represent the ancient Kingdom of England with three gold lions on a red field. The second quadrant represents the ancient Kingdom of Scotland and contains a red lion rampant on a gold field, and the third quadrant represents the ancient Kingdom of Ireland which contains a version of the gold harp from the coat of arms of Ireland on a blue field.

Used by Elizabeth II in her capacity as Sovereign of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories. The flag is flown when the Queen is in residence in one of the royal palaces and on her car during official journeys. It may be flown on any building, official or private, during a visit by the Queen, if the owner or proprietor so requests.

Too Many Flags?

Did you ever find the various flags of the UK confusing? Did you know any of the origins of these the flags? Log in to discuss your thoughts.


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