HAWTHORNE, NJ - On Wednesday, the Louis Bay 2nd Library hosted an audience of all ages for a literal taste of Scottish culture with poetry, piping, and haggis. While the official Burns Night is on January 25, the library's own light-hearted celebration came slightly in advance.
Event Coordinator Adam Keeble welcomed the devotees of Scotland's national poet and, ten years ago, was voted the Greatest Scot of all in a poll carried out by STV, even beating out Sir William Wallace--best known to Americans by the historically inaccurate Mel Gibson portrayal in the 1995 film "Braveheart".
To start off the event, Keeble handed out tickets to those in the audience and a drawing was held for prizes which included a box of shortbread--a Scottish essential, tea cakes, a book on Robbie Burns, and lastly, the most coveted prize of all, a can of haggis.
Burns, Keeble said of his fellow Briton, was honored as being the third-most secular representation in statues world wide, where Queen Victoria was first and Christopher Columbus was second.
Robert Burns was born on January 25, 1759, and Burns Night celebrates his birth. He did not live long, however, dying at the age of 37 on July 21, 1796, in Dumfries, his health failing most likely due to alcoholism-related ailments. Burns's poem "Auld Lang Syne" is one of the most sung songs in the English language, most often heard on New Years. He composed a huge body of poems and lyrics in the course of his short life, including "My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose."
Burns's work came at a time which just preceded the Romantic Era, characterized by a shift in artistic style at the start of the 19th Century, with an emphasis on strong emotions, glorification of the past, and an appreciation of "folk" aesthetics as the western world was shifting into the Industrial Revolution.
Musical entertainment was provided by the Clan Na Vale pipe band, based in Allendale. Three pipers and a drummer marched into the Community Room and played Scottish, Irish, and American tunes such as "Scotland the Brave", " I'll Tell Me Ma", and "You're a Grand Old Flag". The skirl and drone of the pipes accompanied by the martial rattle of the drum resonated boldly--and loudly--through the library, a place where, under most other circumstances, silence is considered golden.
Traditional Burns Suppers involve a solemn series of rites and rituals, not the least of which includes a recital of Burns's "Address to a Haggis" and the "Selkirk Grace", both of which were offered up by women in the audience. The "Address to a Haggis" was accompanied by Keeble's "translation" of "Scottish-English" into "English-English" for the benefit of those less familiar with the nuances of the brogue.
While most of the audience were locals, Ringwood resident Mick Burgess and Morristown resident Shane Paules came to Hawthorne's celebration dressed in their own kilts and bonnets in the spirit of the occasion.
With the ceremonial obligations thus satisfied, Keeble brought out the star of the show--a bowl of haggis. TAPinto Hawthorne readers are invited to research the particulars of haggis in their own time if they so desire, but while some may view it with trepidation or even fear, many of those gathered boldly availed themselves of the steamy meaty mash with cups and plastic spoons provided. Robert Burns, the greatest Scot of all, was not forgotten in the borough of Hawthorne.
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