Story by Sharon Armstrong.
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face?…Yeah, you right!
New Orleans has always been a melting pot of people and cultures, not to mention customs and cuisine. And just as Cajuns are reputed to eat anything that doesn’t manage to crawl off their plates, the members of the Caledonian Society of New Orleans have never hesitated to tackle vittles that might fill those from less naturally adventurous comestible backgrounds with fear rather than hunger pangs.
This year they will be facing that bête noire of Scottish cuisine – the Haggis - during their annual Burns’ Supper, which will take place this year on Saturday, January 16th at the Rose Garden in Harahan.
For those unfamiliar with Burns’ Night, a Burns’ Supper is an annual party celebrating the life and the poems of Robert Burns, widely regarded as Scotland’s national poet. Every year people the world over greet the New Year by singing Auld Lang Syne, words that Burns put to an old Gaelic tune.
As well as being common in Scotland, Burns’ Suppers are also held all over the world. The first Burns’ Supper took place in Ayrshire, Scotland, on the anniversary of his death on July 21st 1796, the date later being moved to the 25th of January, to coincide with the poet’s date of birth. Today, wherever there are Scottish Societies, ex-patriot Scots or just lovers of ‘Rabbie’s’ poetry, people gather on or near his birthday to recite his poems, and to drink, dance and to eat – although not necessarily in that order.
The Caledonian Society of New Orleans was founded here in New Orleans in 1970 to ‘study, preserve, teach and present the culture, history, heraldry, pageantry, music, literature, crafts and all of the arts of Scotland and the Isles’.
In that spirit, CSNW President Rick McConnell, described to WWOZ what the Society’s upcoming Burns Supper will entail.
“I think it was the second year that we were established here that we had a Burns Night,” he said. “And then every year since then we have had a Burn’s supper. The Burns Supper is like it would happen almost anywhere else in the world. It starts off with cocktails, piping, and Highland dancing. And of course we have the ‘Address to the Haggis’ which is Robert Burns’ poem about the Haggis, and its wonderful properties. Later on we have the ‘Toast to the Lads and the Lassies’ and then what we call ‘the Immortal Memory’ which is a talk about Burns and his poetry.”
He further elaborated on the connection between Scotland in general, and New Orleans in particular.
“Scots have been around since before the Louisiana Purchase as businessmen and entrepreneurs,” he said. “And Burns’ Supper traditions are celebrated all over the world. There are strong ties to Scottish culture in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and, of course, here. The Scottish culture is alive and well in New Orleans, and open to anybody who wants to participate in it. You don’t have to be Scottish to be part of the Society - we take converts.”
Further information regarding the Caledonian Society of New Orleans is available at (504) 865-0157 or at email@example.com.