Burns’ Night

Auld Lang Syne

As we approach the close of January, we come to Burns’ Night, the night we celebrate the great Scottish poet Robert Burns, who was born on the 25th of January, 1759. Burns’ Night suppers are held throughout Scotland, and the meals typically include Scottish dishes like haggis served with neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes), together with a wee dram of whisky accompanied by the recitation of plenty of Burns’ poetry.

The dialect that Burns wrote in is rarely easy to master for a non-Highlander, but whenever I read a Robert Burns poem, I conjure up the memory of a woman I worked with many years ago. Josephine was from Scotland and she was a bit scattered and she sometimes got tired, in the middle of a day’s work, of wearing shoes. She and I installed many a greeting card department in our days working for the Ambassador Cards division of Hallmark, and to hear her read from a Hallmark instruction manual… well, it was musical and beautiful. Anytime I read Burns I just imagine it is Josephine who is speaking to me again, and then it is easy to fall into the rhythm of his words. (An additional wee dram of whisky does not hurt, either.)

Certainly the night calls for the singing of Burns’ most famous work, the song and poem “Auld Lang Syne,” which translates to Old Long Since, or Old Times. We opened the new year with this song, and we close the month with it, too. If it brings a tear or two, so be it. Robbie Burns was a bit of a sentimental poet, and there’s nothing wrong with a bit o’that every now and again.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
and surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes,
and pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.


2 thoughts on “Burns’ Night

  1. Carolyn Converse Cooper says:

    Yes, it is Burns Night here in Glasgow. Burns came from Ayrshire, south of here, so he was not a Highlander, but Lowland Scots, and wrote in Scots not Gaelic as a result. We are having vegan haggis as most of our family (myself excepted) is vegetarian or vegan. I have a friend who attends a kosher Burns supper every year: Burns can be adapted for all tastes and types of people!

    • John Cutrone says:

      Carolyn, thank you for always providing the hometown perspective on Scottish celebrations! I hope your vegan haggis was delicious. (I must admit, that’s probably the version I’d most prefer, too.)

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