Burns Night 2017

I celebrated this Scottish holiday for the first time last year. Scotland’s National Poet, Robert Burns, was born on January 25, 1759. Burns Night recognizes Rabbie’s birthday, and his poetic contributions to the world, through a traditional dinner, whiskey and the reciting of his poems. 

Burns Night Dinner featuring vegan haggis
A typical Burns Night Dinner starts with a potato, leek and haddock soup, and ends with shortbread and other sweets. Whether a four course meal or a simple supper, at the core is haggis, served with neeps and tatties. 

Last year, I simply drank a cup of hot Scottish tea and read Burns’ poetry. I was determined to serve haggis, neeps and tatties this year. With the change in my diet to plant based, I researched vegan options. To my delight, I found an easy to prepare vegan haggis recipe, posted by Mike Lewis. 

Burns Night Dinner featuring vegan haggis

Burns Night Dinner featuring vegan haggisBurns Night Dinner featuring vegan haggis
I enjoyed creating my first haggis tonight. I had bagpipes playing on my iPod as I worked. The dish was easy to prepare and smelled wonderful as it baked. After popping the haggis into the oven, I prepared neeps and tatties. Neeps, otherwise known as rutabagas here in the US, were another first for me. I’ve never eaten a rutabaga before. As per a recipe I found online, I peeled and cut up the rutabaga and boiled in water, along with one large cut up carrot. After draining the liquid, I added sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper, and mashed the neeps. 

Burns Night Dinner featuring vegan haggis

Tatties are simply cooked potatoes. I prepared Yukon Gold potatoes, cutting them up and boiling in water. I added sea salt and pepper after draining. Keeping to my plant based diet, I didn’t add milk or butter. 

After preparing my plate, I read Burns’ Address  to a Haggis, which begins:

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,

Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!

Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,

Painch, tripe, or thairm:

Weel are ye worthy o’ a grace

As lang’s my arm.

The line about haggis being the great chieftain o the puddin’ race makes me smile! 

Burns Night Dinner 2017 featuring vegan haggis
This was a good supper! The neeps and tatties were excellent. And the haggis? I sampled haggis when I visited Scotland in 2014. This didn’t taste like that haggis. But the vegan haggis-like dish was savory and very delicious. I will prepare it again, and not wait until the next Burns Night. 

I sipped Scottish Thistle tea as I read several more poems by Robert Burns. As an American with deep Scottish roots, participating in this beloved holiday makes me feel closer to my heritage, while creating an ache that is only eased by a visit to bonnie Scotland. 

Writing from his heart and soul, Burns was considered a people’s poet because he was most at home with the common folk, the farmers and inn keepers, pretty girls and rowdy lads, beggars and bawdy countrymen. I consider him my poet as well. 

Happy birthday, Robert Burns! 

Burns Night Dinner 2017 featuring vegan haggis

Surrender 25: Burns Night

My Scottish heritage keeps my awareness alerted to events in the “home country”. This evening marks an important celebration in Scotland. Burns Night is held in honor of the country’s most well known poet, Robert Burns. 

January 25 is the bard’s birthdate and Burns Night celebrations feature a dinner with haggis, neeps and tatties, and whiskey. Poetry readings, of Rabbie’s most famous works, are common, as are songs and music. 

Robert Burns was born January 25, 1759 in Alloway, Scotland. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and the pioneer of the romantic movement. He wrote hundreds of poems and lyrics. Among his best known work is Auld Lang Syne, Tam O’Shanter, Address to a Haggis and A Red, Red Rose. Burns died July 21, 1796. A few years after his death, his friends began the tradition of gathering to share a haggis dinner, stories and poetry, to remember Rabbie. 


As an American with Scottish blood, and a Midwestern at that, I had to devise my own Burns Night celebration. There was no haggis to be found in Joplin. I will plan ahead for next January and order a wee haggis so I can honor the poet properly. I’ve already checked. I can order a complete haggis dinner for Burns Night through Amazon! 

And I passed on the whiskey, this time. I had a cup of hot Scottish thistle tea instead. I did enjoy reading through some of Burns’ poetry. I especially liked Up in the Morning Early. And I contributed to the collage of photos that makes up the portrait of Rabbie above. I’m in there somewhere, sporting my tartan scarf. What a cool idea, organized by the About Scotland website. 

Lastly, I very much appreciated this reading of a couple of lines from My Luve is Like a Red, Red Rose by Scottish actor Sam Heughan, star of the series, Outlander. You can listen here:

My Luve is Like a Red, Red Rose

I loved this description of Robert Burns that I found on the Scottish Poetry Library site:

“If ever a poet understood the character of his nation, he was Robert Burns. The language he was most fluent in wasn’t so much Scots or English – it was the language of the heart. All too human in his personal life, he carried that humanity over onto the page. Nothing was too small or too large to escape his notice, from a mouse in the mud to God in his heavens. A poet for all seasons, Burns speaks to all, soul to soul.”

What a beautiful way to characterize poet Robert Burns. He does indeed speak soul to soul. Happy birthday Rabbie.