For reasons to do with the Calvinist traditions of Scottish Presbyterianism Scotland’s national day of celebration actually covers two days, Hogmanay and New Year’s Day. (Christmas could not be celebrated riotously due to its religious nature, besides it was tainted with Catholicism.) Everyone, though, needs a blow out at the depth of winter to rejoice at coming through so far and look forward to the turning into light.
Today, however, is your other national day, if you’re Scottish.
It marks the birthday of Robert Burns, Scotland’s most renowned poet, lauded worldwide – most notably in the US and Russia.
Though the tradition may be dying out a little there will still be hundreds of Burns’ Suppers taking place around the world today, and in the days around, in his memory.
I shall not be addressing the “great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race,” nor toasting the lassies (only the good lady will be present,) nor even proposing the immortal memory, but I will be supping on haggis, neeps and tatties tonight.
Burns’s contribution to Scottish letters and culture lies not only in his own verses but in the collection of traditional songs which he sometimes revised or adapted. Without him many of these might have been lost.
He may have treated the women in his life badly, or off-handedly, but there is a concern for common humanity, and indeed for animals, in evidence in his work.
This is Is There For Honest Poverty (A Man’s A Man For A’ That) sung by Ian Benzie.