Photo: Scotland’s favourite son, Robbie Burns (1759-1796). Source: Flickr.
January 25th is Robbie Burns Day, a Scottish holiday celebrating Scottish bard, Robert “Rabbie” Burns. Communities from all over the world celebrate the occasion with traditional Robbie Burns suppers – meals which include rituals such as the obligatory recital of “Ode to a Haggis” before consuming Scotland’s most questionable of culinary offerings. Even so, having been to a Robbie Burns supper or two in my past, I can vouch that it’s a great excuse to drink Scotch, recite poetry in fake Scottish accents, and wear kilts.
You don’t have to be Scottish or even know of Robbie Burns to partake in these festivities, although you’re probably more familiar with the poet than you think (“Auld Lang Syne” anyone?). And though there are many Robbie Burns events taking place throughout the month of January, I’ve highlighted five of them to give you a sense of the different ways you can celebrate Scotland’s favourite son throughout the Vancouver, Coast & Mountains region.
5. Robbie Burns Marathon Poetry Reading – Vancouver
Want to make history? On January 25, the Centre for Scottish Studies at SFU is inviting everyone out to help them set a world record for the longest recitation of Robbie Burns’ poetry and songs. Their goal is to recite 4.5 hours worth of Robbie Burns material from 8am until 12:30pm at the SFU Harbour Centre campus. Haggis, shortbread and refreshments will also be on offer. If you wish to participate, you do have to RSVP so they can fit you into the poetry-reading slot, although you can simply show up and cheer the reciters on.
4. Scottish Luncheon – Chilliwack
Fred Hails, the owner of Chilliwack’s Dickens Sweets and British Museum, shares his birthday with Robbie Burns. As a result, on January 25, Dickens Sweets is serving a special Scottish Luncheon inspired by Robbie Burns day traditions where, yes, haggis will be on the menu. But get this! If your birthday also falls on January 25, your lunch will be free! Just be sure to bring along your ID. You can make your reservations by calling 604-793-1981.
3. Robbie Burns Night – White Rock
Many restaurants pick up on the popularity of Robbie Burns Day and host their own Scottish suppers. If you want to celebrate Robbie Burns in a sit-down restaurant, take a look at what Uli’s Restaurant in White Rock’s offering. They lured us in via their Facebook Page where they wrote, “If you like whisky, poetry, laughter, incredible comradery, haggis, or all of the above, you are going to want to make a reso for Wednesday January 25th. Our second annual Robbie Burns night complete with pipes and all starts at 7pm. $29 for three courses. Give us a call soon 604-538-9373. P.S. – We have other choices for the non Haggis lovers”. Can’t make it to Uli’s on Wednesday? Try their Bite of the Rock menu instead.
2. Robbie Burns Night at the Legion – Pender Harbour
The Royal Canadian Legion is steeped in Scottish traditions, from the proud Legion Pipe Bands to the popularity of the Highland Gatherings. It’s therefore no surprise that many Legion Halls across the province are hosting their own Robbie Burns Day events for their local communities. To highlight one such event, the Pender Harbour Legion will be celebrating their Robbie Burns Night on Saturday, January 21 at 5:30pm. Promoted by the Painted Boat Resort, they write, “This winter ceilidh for Scots and the Scottish at heart celebrates the birth of the bard with traditional food (haggis), music (piping), entertainment and dancing (high-stepping) and more.” The Coast Cultural Alliance mentions that tickets are $31 and can be purchased at the Pender Harbour Legion.
1. Gung Haggis Fat Choy – Chinatown
Toddish McWong is a genius. Recognizing BC’s Scottish and Chinese heritage, and that Robbie Burns Day and Chinese New Year fall around the same time, he created a mash up of the two holidays and came up with Gung Haggis Fat Choy. Now in its 15th year, this Robbie Burns Chinese New Year dinner is as popular as ever. Held on Sunday, January 22 at Floata Seafood Restaurant in Chinatown, this is an authentic multicultural celebration if there ever was one. In addition to live music and entertainment, you can anticipate delicacies such as deep-fried haggis and turnip cake, haggis lettuce wraps, and even the traditional haggis for the purists.