One of the things that goes along with being a bagpiper is regular exposure to Robert Burns, the national poet and near patron saint of Scotland. In Scotland people just call him "The Bard". You may know him as the author of Auld Lang Syne. I have to say, I think Scotland is pretty cool just for having a national poet, and for regularly celebrating and revering someone who writes beautiful words for a living. This esteem I feel for the Scots is only slightly tempered (for me, anyway) by the wacky gatherings held in Burns' honor every year. I've attended some doozies.
Robert Burns' birthday is January 25th and each year, all over the world, Burns nights are celebrated with much tartan, scotch, and Scottish brogue...both real ones and those valiantly attempted. The best Burns suppers are gastro-literary events with audience participation and a liberal sharing of verse, anecdote and song. There are a few rules governing a Burns supper that are always adhered to:
There must be ample access to scotch.
There must be Scottish music.
There must, specifically, be bagpipes...lots of bagpipes.
A roaring fire is a bonus.
There must be speaking and reading aloud the poetry of Robbie Burns.
And there MUST be haggis: a huge sausage-like dish made of sheep innards, oatmeal & spices which is stuffed inside a sheep stomach and boiled. Mmmm, yum. It must be escorted in by a lone piper (this is called the Parade of the Haggis), then addressed (yes, I mean talked to) by the master of ceremonies A Burns poem is actually read to the haggis before it is ceremonially pierced with a sharp dagger and served. It must be eaten with mashed neeps and tatties (turnips & potatoes), which are pretty good.
A rowdy and jovial night is usually had by all, thanks to the scotch and the poetry. You need to be careful not to drink too much, though...since expelled haggis is something that a person should never have to see.