This year is Scotland's poet laureate Robert Burns’ 260th birthday and a traditional celebratory dinners will be held in his honor around the globe and in Hamilton.
Laura Reichart, Bitterroot Celtic Society director and Burns Night coordinator, said the Robert Burns dinner will be a great evening of tradition and laughter.
“A couple of years after his death some friends got together and decided to honor his memory with a dinner,” Reichart said. “They had toasts and poetry readings and haggis. People have been doing it ever since, over 250 years of doing dinner on his birthday.”
This year the Robert Burns dinner will be at the Saint Francis Pastoral Life Center in Hamilton with room to seat 160 people.
“We’ve sold about half the tickets so far,” Reichart said. “In years before we held it at the Daly Mansion where we could only seat 70 guests. As much as we love the mansion and that atmosphere and would love to keep having it there the demand got so big that every year, we were turning people away.”
Doors open at 6 p.m. starting with a cocktail hour and no host bar catered by Marley’s.
The festivities start at 7 p.m. with toasts, traditions, a Celtic instrumental band, some Highland dance demonstrations and bag pipes.
The meal is a plated dinner by The Catered Table offering a choice of Ribeye, Duck or Salmon.
There will be haggis - a Scottish dish made from sheep's or calf's entrails and internal organs, mixed with suet, oatmeal, and seasonings traditionally boiled in the animal's stomach.
“It’s a very big part of it,” Reichart said. “Burns wrote a poem called ‘Address to the Haggis’ it is a huge, long poem. Tom Campbell, our emcee for the night, has this thing memorized. He stands up there and does it all from beginning to end, with lots of drama.”
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Then the haggis will be cut open and served.
“In the U.S. you can’t get haggis made with heart and lungs but we get them from a place called the Scottish Gourmet and people rant and rave,” she said. “It is the best I’ve ever had.”
Reichart said her favorite part of the whole evening is the two traditional toasts to the lassies, given by a man, and to the lads, given by a lady in response.
“Usually the man’s part of the toast is pretty serious, ‘this is how I feel about my wife…’ and really heart felt. Then when the woman gets up to give her part it is usually more of a burn,” Reichert said. “It can be a little bawdy, a little tongue-in-cheek. The whole night is fun. I end up laughing for hours, it is such a good time. It is so involved, you are not just sitting there watching a show you are involved in the activity, it is a riot. I really enjoy it.”
The Robert Burns dinner is a formal event but the level of dress is attendee’s choice.
“We do not require kilts,” Reichart said. “We’ve had everything from formal highland dress to jeans. We don’t care, just come and have fun.”
Tickets to the Robert Burns dinner are $60 and are available only through the website www.bcgg.org until Saturday, Jan. 18.
The Bitterroot Celtic Games & Gathering will be August 15-16, this year on the grounds of the Daly Mansion.
“Thompson is the honored clan and that is already in the works and already being planned,” Reichart said. “Tickets and more information are available on our website www.bcgg.org. Our meetings are 6 p.m. the third Thursday of each month at the Daly Leech Community Center. Everyone is welcome, we can always use new volunteers and new ideas.”