Take a quick trip to the islands of Scotland without showing your passport.
The St. Andrew’s Society of Southern Nevada plans to host its annual Burns Night Supper at 6 p.m. Jan. 18 at the Suncoast, 9090 Alta Drive.
The observance is set to include bagpipes, Scottish dancing, Scottish poet Robert Burns’ famous “Address to A Haggis” and a 10-minute piece that celebrates Burns’ life. A no-host bar is planned. The dinner and program are set for 7 p.m.
The cost is $50 per person. Pay online via PayPal at sassn.com. For more information, call 702-223-8040.
Burns Night suppers occur the world over and are said to have begun soon after Burns’ death in 1796. Locally, the St. Andrew’s Society of Southern Nevada has organized Burns suppers, open to everyone, for several years.
Rosemary Thom is the president of the local chapter. Most of the group, she said, are second- or third-generation Scottish and there are more than six groups in town that are representative of Scottish heritage. Among them are Desert Skye Pipes & Drums, the Las Vegas Celtic Society and the Scottish-American Military Society. There’s also the Las Vegas Highland Dance Association.
“I wish people knew more about theses groups. They’re all different,” Thom said. “If you don’t like one, go to one of the others. There’s one group who do nothing but dance.”
She was referring to the Southern Nevada Old Time Contra Dancers, a group sponsored by the city of Las Vegas, which meets at the Charleston Heights Arts Center, 800 S. Brush St. For more information, call 702-229-6383.
C.T. Seidl, director of the group, moved to Las Vegas in late 1999. What does he get out of the annual tradition?
“It’s probably the No. 1 event on my personal social calendar,” Seidl said. “I just absolutely get a thrill out of it. … It’s steeped in history. I mean a history buff like myself, I’m interested in all things Scottish, and this is the epitome of it here.”
He estimated that about 100 people attend, with “25 or 30 percent of the people who don’t have the DNA.”
He said the Scottish faction is strong in Las Vegas.
“You can hear it in their accents,” Seidl said. “Some of them sound like they just got off the boat.”
Burns, sometimes known as the “ploughman poet,” was the eldest son of a poverty-stricken farmer. But he was educated and read William Shakespeare, John Dryden, John Milton and the Bible. After his father’s death, he and his brother continued farming together.
Burns’ first achieved literary success when he published his poems in the Scottish dialect in 1786. This volume contained, among others, “The Cotter’s Saturday Night,” “To a Mouse,” “To a Mountain Daisy” and “The Holy Fair,” all of which were written at the farm of Mossigiel. The volume brought him immediate success. His last major work was a narrative poem, “Tam o’ Shanter.”
Seidl said Burns is held in such high regard because he and Walter Scott, at a time when the British were encroaching more and more on the Scots, were instrumental in keeping the stories and songs of the Scottish countryside from being obscured.
“Much of it was vocal history … so they wrote them down before they disappeared,” he said. “They got some rather obscure ones. ‘Auld Lang Syne’ was a tune that was around for a while, and that’s always sung. I think people are not as well-read as they used to be. … people don’t know their history. It’s the kind of stuff you’ve got to sit down, turn the TV off and read a little bit.”
Expect the traditional eating of the haggis (a Scottish pudding containing sheep heart, liver and lungs, all encased in sheep stomach) at the event, but don’t expect it to be homemade.
“The USDA doesn’t allow us to import from Scotland,” said Thom. “We are not allowed to have the traditional haggis, which in Scotland is boiled in a sheep’s stomach. And they use all the bits and pieces nobody else wants to eat. That goes into it with a lot of oats, spices, onion. We buy it in a can; that’s the only way they allow us to have it in the U.S. They won’t allow us to make it here, so we have to open a can.”
Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at email@example.com or 702-387-2949.