Monday, 25 January 2016

'Address tae the Haggis' - Celebrating Burns Night with the Children

I'm ashamed to say it, but in 10 years of being married to a Scotsman and having a Scottish Granny - I have never cooked Haggis or celebrated Burns night in any way.

Well today that changed.

This morning we started the day off with a hearty bowl of porridge. Even my fussy eater had a bowl and seemed to enjoy it :)

Previous to this, all I really knew about this famous Scottish figure, was that he was a poet. So after some research, here is what I discovered -

Burns Night, the anniversary of the birth of Scottish poet Robert Burns, is celebrated annually on 25 January. The tradition of the Burns Night supper, first held in 1801 by the poet's close friends five years after his death, still continues to this day.

Burns is one of Scotland's most important literary figures, best known for his famous – and often humorous – songs and poetry. He is regarded as Scotland's National Bard. His most recognised works include Auld Lang Syne, which is often sung at Hogmanay on New Year's Eve, and Scots Wha Hae, which has become an unofficial Scottish national anthem.

Burns, commonly known as Rabbie, was born to a poor family in Alloway, Ayr, on 25 January 1759 and began his working life on the family farm. His father hired a local teacher to tutor Burns, who showed signs of having a natural talent for writing from a young age.

As Burns grew older, his passion for Scotland and his contemporary vision played important roles in inspiring the founders of socialism and liberalism. His first work, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect – later known as the Kilmarnock Edition – was published in 1786.

He also wrote in English and is regarded as a pioneer of the Romantic movement. Burns' poetry drew on references to classical, biblical and English literature, as well as the Scottish Makar tradition – a term from Scottish literature for a poet or bard

Burns died in Dumfries at the age of 37. Inspired by Scottish history and culture, as well as Scotland's countryside, Burns remains one of the most celebrated figures in the country's history – as demonstrated by the annual Burns Night celebrations.

I looked into traditional meals served on Burns night, and discovered that there are a few different choices -

1. Stovies (googled that recipe and was totally put off by the look of it)

2. Cock-a-leekie soup

3. Haggis, neeps and tatties

I opted for the haggis. My first and only experience of this food came when I visited my Scottish later to become in-laws for the first time. They presented it to me for our evening meal. Back then, I was an innocent and naiive 16 year old. As I began to chew my first mouthful, my father-in-law in his thick Glaswegian accent asked "Y'ken where the Haggis comes feh?" I looked accross at G with pleading eyes, willing him to translate for me. "He's askin' yeh if you know what Haggis is"

I had no idea "No?" I replied. He continued, his face serious - "It's a wee furry creature that lives high in the Scottish mountains. Uh huz one long leg and one short so'z uh kin run rwnd the steep mountains quickly. But it canny go beth ways... nooo, jus the wan way... rwn an rwn".

I stared flabbergast as I told the story of the little helpless furry animal that I was in the process of consuming "I had no idea! Gosh!!" I looked down at my pile of Haggis, feeling slightly ill. They must have been watching for my reaction, because at that point they all burst into laughter, Liz chiming " ohhh the poor wee soul... it's jus a wee joke... the truth is a lot worse!"

Perhaps that's why I've waited so long to cook it again. The trauma of thinking I was eating a strange highlands creature followed by the hard reality that it's actually made up of a sheeps heart,liver and intestines was really just too much.

Anywaaaaay... After we'd picked up Chick 1 from school, we got stuck into a few Burns/Scottish activities to celebrate the day -

We started with making and painting Scottish flags to hang in the kitchen...

We watched a couple of animations of the poems (which they quickly lost patience with as they couldn't really understand what they were saying).

They had a go at some traditional dancing -

Chick 3 had a great time playing away to the music of 'Oh flower of Scotland'


We looked at a map of Scotland and made a mark to show where Robert Burns was born, where their Daddy's family are from and where my Granny was born.

They had a go at doing some poems - we tried some acrostics. Chick 1 decided that instead of doing it about Robert Burns they should be about Daddy because "He's Scottish too". She came up with an idea and I helped her with spelling some words. Chick two told me the words that described his Daddy and I finished it by adding in some extra to make it fit to an Acrostic for 'BURNS'.

Making the traditional haggis, neeps and tatties came next. Our kids love cooking and so they were keen to help with peeling, mashing and stirring.

We also tried out our own Non-Alchoholic Mulled Apple Drink to have with the dinner (see HERE to see how we made it).

We looked at Nanny's family tartan and had a go at colouring it.

By this time, food was ready so we sat down to eat. Before we started, we watched the address 'tae the haggis' on youtube (didn't fancy trying to pronounce the words myself).

We chimed our glasses of mulled apple and got stuck into the haggis.

Happy Burns night everyone!

Educational Links:

SMSC - Promoting British Values

EYFS Development Matters:

Understanding of the World: People and Communities

30-50 months -

•Recognises and describes special times or events for family or friends.


•Enjoys joining in with family customs and routines.

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