Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dinnae Fash Yerself! Slainte!

Those are the only Scottish phrases I can pull off the top of my head and since they means, "Don't worry!" and "Cheer!" (or perhaps, "Here's to your health"), they're good to know. Especially for tomorrow, January 25, Robbie Burns Day. Considering Nova Scotia is New Scotland, it's an excellent excuse to celebrate the Scottish bard's birthday, whether or not you have a little tartan in your blood and a little kirk in your kick.
Born on January 25, 1759, Robert "Robbie" Burns is considered Scotland's greatest poet and favourite son. Although he died more than 200 years ago, he is still considered The Greatest Scot. The first Burns day wasn't held on his birthday, as it is now, but on the fifth anniversary of his death. The idea caught on across Scotland until it became an annual event eventually celebrated on January 25.
Over the years, Burns' influence spread due to worldwide Scottish immigration. Intrepid Scots brought their love of Robert Burns with them when they settled in Canada, Brazil, Jamaica, New Zealand, Argentina, and elsewhere. There are so many Scottish Canadians, they are considered Canada's third largest ethnic group, and Gaelic is still taught and spoken in Cape Breton.
No celebration of Robbie Burns day is complete with a haggis. Despite what you may have heard, few people actually make the very traditional (and gruesome) haggis; now it is a delicious blend of meat, spices and oatmeal rolled into a sausage. No wonder Burns decided an eight-stanza poem to it. Here's the first verse, translated from Gaelic:
Fair is your honest happy face,
Great chieftain of the pudding race.
Above them all you take your place,
Stomach, tripe or guts
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.

I think it's safe to say, if you can't find a haggis to eat tomorrow, a pork sausage, some ground lamb or beef in a nice hearty mince or chicken will be an acceptable substitution. As long as you serve a dram of Scotland's finest drink - whiskey - all will be forgiven. Slainte!

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