Rain and fog drift down upon this old house as if winter is not sure which way to go. Winter started and was caught off guard as the spring rains returned. Once again, winter took the stand, but spring seems to be in a hurry this year. I did notice the daffodils were beginning to come up in my gardens, although this is not a good idea! Whichever way you lean toward winter hanging on a bit or the hurrying of spring, today is a day to celebrate without any weather interference.
By luck of the calendar or the smiling of the gods, or whatever you call it, today is almost a perfect storm. Almost. Today is the 261st anniversary of the birthday of the Scottish bard, Robert Burns. (Not to be outdone by the 211th birthday of Poe last Sunday. You did not miss it, did you?) Therefore, on this day, since 1801, folks around the world have been celebrating Burns Night to honor this poet.
Born in Ayrshire, Scotland, Burns spent his life writing and left behind a huge body of work upon his death at the young age of 37. He was soon honored as the National Poet of Scotland and many believe he still is the most famed poet. Even if you think you do not know his poetry, you definitely do! His poem, “Auld Lang Syne,” is sung in every New Year’s celebration around the world.
Other poems include “To a Mouse” and “A Red, Red Rose.” Years ago while visiting Scotland I took a Robert Burns tour. The tour guide was a very large Scotsman with a deep brogue and a huge repertoire of the work of Burns. As we followed him around the city, he stopped to recite poetry. However, my heart-stopping favorite was in a large cathedral when he recited, “A Red, Red Rose.” I can still hear his voice echoing off the chamber of the church walls and his large cape flailing about him displaying the red silk lining.
On this day, since 1801, folks around the world celebrate Burns Night. Usually a piper introduces the evening complete with poetry reading, haggis eating, whiskey drinking and much merry making. There is always a toast to the lassies and a toast to the laddies on this evening.
Also on this day is the celebration of Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival. This year is the year of the rat, which, by the way, is said to be the best year! According to Chinese mythology, the Jade Emperor made a proclamation asking all animals to come to him. Whoever arrived first would become the first to celebrate. The rat hopped onto the back of the ox, and well, you know the story. The rat jumped off and ran up to the finish line thus becoming the first animal.
Chinese New Year is an extremely important time and celebrated for days and days. When Mengting Ma lived with me during her Trine University years, we celebrated every year and learned all we could. Jonah even learned a bit of Chinese and wrote his name that year in Chinese on all of his papers. Every year we decorated the house with red signs and banners and pictures on the walls and mirrors.
It has been a toss-up for me this year with both huge celebrations on the same day. I think the best we can do is to eat off red plates, hang up photos of the rat, and sing “Auld Lang Syne” before everyone goes home! It is also a good time to pass out gold coins to the grandkids! Or you could combine it with a huge Valentine’s party!
If you want a traditional Burns Celebration, join me in Wells Theatre inside Taylor Hall on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. The poetry will be read, the pipes played and the songs sung. My word of advice? Come early to get a seat!
My head swirls with all these celebrations. I never worry that the winter will be too long, and this year not at all. Celebrations begin in December and carry us well into February. (Do not forget next week is Groundhog Day, the mid-quarter day between winter and spring.)
If all celebrations fail, just wear red, and head outside under the night skies with Orion keeping court and sing:
“For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.”
— Robert Burns