I lived in Scotland for four years for university, but the most Scottish experiences I’ve ever had have been right here in the U.S.
First up, when I lived in Atlanta, I went to the city’s Highland Games, which looked like this:
Then last year, I went to the Tartan Parade, complete with bagpipes and dancers, here in New York:
And finally, on Sunday, I went all-out Scot at a Burns Supper in Queens.
For those of you unfamiliar with the event, Burns Suppers are held every year to pay homage to Scotland’s most famous poet, Robert Burns. They fall on (or around) January 25, which was his birthday, and feature haggis, bagpipes, Burns’ poetry, ceilidhs and kilts galore.
We battled broken-down subways and chilly winter winds to make our way to The Dog and the Duck in Sunnyside, Queens for our supper.
First up, they paraded the haggis out as a piper played. As a vegetarian, the idea of haggis (sheep’s heart, liver and lungs mixed with oats and spices and then cooked inside the animal’s stomach) is particularly horrifying, but, if it tastes even a little like the vegan version (which I sampled in Glasgow), I can assure you that it is delicious.
Once it was displayed to the room, the host addressed the haggis by reciting a Burns’ poem (read it here, it’s amazing). Our host was very Scottish and yes, very tricky to understand.
After slicing open the haggis, he then presented drams of whiskey to the team who had accompanied him. This was followed by the ‘Toast to the Lassies’, in which a male member of the party gets up and lauds the women in the room. A woman then responds with the ‘Reply to the Laddies’. It was all very raucous.
We then settled down to dinner. As well as haggis, The Dog and Duck was serving their usual menu, and we were all really impressed with the food.
Then the ceilidh dancing began… which prompted our escape.
It was a lovely evening, and a great restaurant for it – if you find yourself in that neck of the woods, I’d definitely recommend it. It was bizarre how I felt like I could’ve been back in a snug pub in Scotland rather than in Queens.
During my time in Scotland, I never witnessed anything so over-the-top Scottish as I have at these events. My guess is that because the U.S. is comprised of immigrants, everyone holds on to their history and celebrates it is the most in-your-face way possible. That way, they can proudly hark back to where they’re from and relate with their ancestors’ culture.
I know that I do – every year I celebrate St George’s Day, even though I never even knew the date when I lived in England. Do you have any similar cultural celebrations?
I think I’d happily make a tradition of trekking to The Dog and Duck for piping and poetry. Slainte!