When I was at school, and reached the dizzy age of seventeen, I had the strange honour of being invited to the school Burns Night (the traditional celebration of the Scottish poet, not a precursor to a night in hospital) on the night of 25 January. It was like a school disco, only there was no DJ, no dancing, just haggis. It was probably the only thing simple enough for the school canteen to cook and not ruin.

It would begin with someone who knew how to play the bagpipes piping the haggis into the room in noisy procession. When it arrived at the table, our headmaster, with all the drama he could muster, would summon his sgien dubh (a little knife, kept in one's sock), read the 'Address to a Haggis' and slice it open. My sister knows the whole address by heart, I don't really know it at all.

Despite all that tradition, it was always a fairly clinical affair, held in the echoey white school canteen. We sat at long formica tables – the kind with the plastic stools pre-attached.

Home-made Cranachan
(Last photo via macten on Flickr, whose photos are beautiful, actually)

Nowadays, shacked up with my very own sassenach (a Scottish term for those English folk) he and I forgo the dramatics and focus on the food and the whisky. On Burns Night in our little flat, we have haggis, 'neeps (turnip) and tatties (potatoes), sometimes we have cranachan for pudding (a creamy raspberry concoction) and afterwards we wince our way through the first few sips of whisky.

It's much quieter, much less dramatic, but I'm pleased all the same that we remember to do it. It's kind of therapeutic to return to your roots when you live life far removed from them, I find.


  1. I love the way you write, it's so beautiful. I tried haggis for the first time last year and was surprised to find that I love it!


  2. Mmmm...Haggis is yummy with parsnips too! I recognize the term sassenach from reading too many romance novels set in Scotland, as a child. :)

  3. No Poetry? I'll have the books back then!

  4. I completely understand putting a new twist on old days. I'm the same with St Patrick's Day here. It's become a very personal day. Not so much of the boozing and rollicking, just a day to spend with friends and have a wee toast and enjoy the things I love about Ireland (and forget the things I don't). Sometimes a little bit of distance is a very good thing!

  5. Oh what beautiful photos + words. Thanks for sharing as always. Your blog always feels like a whole other world to me. xx Jenny

  6. Becky: I'm quite militant about getting people to try haggis - it's really nice! People are always quite surprised.

    Colleen: Scottish romance novels are the best kind, I'd say. Any in particular? I need some more Scottish romance I think.

    Neil: I didn't say there was no poetry, just less drama. Books remain very happy on my shelf.

    Jane: I'm so pleased that you do the same, although you have much more of an excuse! It's nice to be able to introduce those traditions to people who haven't experienced them though, and kind of make it what you want it to be.

    Jenny: Thank you so much. Coming from you that's a huge compliment!



I really appreciate your comments, so thank you for leaving one! Please though, don't leave your blog address in the comment box – it is slightly spammy, and already linked via your blogger profile. Thank you!