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Burns night

May Selby
Aspen, CO Colorado
The esteemed poet Robert Burns. Courtesy photo.
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The poet Robert Burns was born on Jan. 25, 1759, in Scotland and died on July 21, 1796. Though his life may have been short, he made a tremendous impact on many of his countrymen, so it was only natural that they should want to mark his life and works with a celebration.

The first recorded Burns supper was in 1801 in his birthplace of Alloway when a group of his friends gathered to mark the fifth anniversary of his death. Since then, many tribute suppers have taken place, though they are most often held at the beginning of the year on the anniversary of his birth. Many of the traditions established on that first occasion have been carried through the years, one being haggis served as the main course along with a bountiful supply of whisky on hand to mark the many toasts. The haggis was addressed at that first meal since the poet himself had provided the perfect words with which to do so in his poem “Address to a Haggis.”

Since the beginning, the custom of holding a supper in the memory of Mr. Burns has become a worldwide phenomenon. “There are Burns nights in every major city in the world,” noted Tim Harris, a longtime local resident and ex-pat from Scotland. Originally exclusive to men of Scottish descent, it has evolved over the years to include non-Scots and women.

In celebration of the life and works of Robert Burns, Harris along with Adrian and Heike Burns (of no apparent relation to the esteemed poet) hosted a special supper for friends in the Roaring Fork Valley on Feb. 3. The eighth annual Burns night at the Burns’ Brushcreek home saw about 120 guests, many of whom came dressed in tartans and kilts. Invitations were sent by mail to “all of our friends” said Harris and drew the “biggest cross-section of Aspen people imaginable.”

The evening began at 8 p.m. with dinner, which included the piping in of the haggis (a delicacy made of sheep’s intestines). This year, the haggis was imported from Texas and enjoyed by all. Following dinner were speeches, singing and ceremonial dancing. The hosts even flew former local DJ Craig in from San Francisco to carry the event well into the wee hours.


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