Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Day 114: Burns Night
As I was getting ready for "Burns Night" formal hall yesterday evening here at Lady Margaret Hall, I listened/watched BBC news on BBC's iplayer (they don't have hulu here, but the BBC operates four channels, which run game shows, multi-series period dramas (I watched a four-hour "Emma" series last term-delightful!), news, movies such as Chicken Run, and documentaries), and heard of a Member of the Scottish Parliament who was again going to introducing a bill for Scottish independence. However, if the Burns Night phenomenon common to all Oxford Colleges is any indication of solidarity between the nations, there is no risk of dissolution anytime soon.
Robert Burns was a Scottish bard born 25 Jan 1759. Although I had not heard of him previously, he is famous enough that a national, non-bank holiday was created in celebration of his birth. I was told that Burns night was an excuse to party, of which institutions with Scottish ties within Common Wealth countries and, apparently, even in the U.S. take full advantage.
Apparently, all colleges at Oxford have Scottish ties, because they all celebrate Burns Night, as does the Oxford Union. It consists of Scottish food, lots of tartan, bagpipes, really bad whiskey (so I was told) and Scottish dancing called a "Ceilidh" (pronounced "Kaley").
At LMH last night, per usual formal hall etiquette, students rose as the headmaster and fellows entered to sit at high table. However, this time a Scottish fellow dressed in family clan tartan presided and pronounced a non-Latin, Scottish blessing. After the soup/appetizer course, a bagpiper circled the hall followed in procession by a cook with white hat atop (and a strange blood stain on this face - I was told this was symbolic) followed carrying a large haggis on a platter. Once the procession arrived at the high table, the presiding Scottish fellow recited a Burns poem, "Address to a Haggis" in thick, unintelligable Scottish accent, and sliced the haggis in two. The haggis and "tatties and neeps" (mashed potatoes and turnips) were then served. I took three very brave bites of the haggis before asking what it contained (something about liver, stomach, and something else I didn't recognize) and what it was surrounded by (stomach lining) before abruptly but quietly finishing my meal.
Thankfully, the dessert was better.
at 8:53:00 AM