Today we celebrate a powerful poet

Ruth Griffiths

Today is Robbie Burns Day, a time to celebrate all things Scottish, but especially the birthday of Scotland’s most famous poet and lyricist, Robert Burns.

I first learned about Burns in a high school literature class, but it wasn’t until I attended a Burns Night supper that I understood the power of poetry in Scottish culture. Burns simple songs and poems have united the Celtic clans more than any warrior chiefs have ever been able to achieve. Scots and wannabes around the world gather annually to eat, drink and sing in honour of Burns, leaving their differences at the door.

Burns’ poetry was first published in 1786; his volume “Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect” brought him wide acclaim.

Burns spent the last ten years of his life collecting, revising and writing traditional Scottish songs.

It was Burns who wrote To a Mouse “Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie” that he had disturbed while plowing. It was Burns who wrote down and tinkered with “Auld Lang Syne”, now traditionally sung on New Year’s Eve.

Burns was born in 1759 at Alloway, Scotland. He died July 21, 1796, possibly from a rheumatic heart condition following a dental extraction.

Throughout his 37-year life Burns also made his name for his stand against orthodox religion and for his numerous love affairs … he fathered in total 12 children.

As colourful and enjoyable as Burns Night is, it is not an official Scottish national day. St. Andrew’s Day, Nov. 30, celebrates Scotland’s patron saint and is its national holiday. We all know and love the St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, the day to celebrate all things Irish. But less well known is the celebration for England ’s patron saint, St. George, which is April 23. While people in Northern Ireland get a bank holiday for St. Patrick’s Day and people in Scotland also have a day off for St. Andrew’s Day, unfortunately for people living and working in England, St George’s Day is not a bank holiday In fact. England does not have a national day, although the King’s birthday celebration comes close.

The Welsh celebrate St. David’s Day on March 1.. St David’s Day is not a bank holiday despite 87 per cent of Welsh people voting to make it one in 2007. Nevertheless, the day is marked with tasty treats and celebrations. I think the reason the celebrations of St. George and St. David never caught on in North America is because there is less drinking involved. More people get excited about drinking green beer for St. Patrick and whiskey to honour Burns than they do to drink tea and eat pastries. Despite their popularity, none of the celebrations of culture from the United Kingdom is a holiday in Canada.

Canada’s national day, of course, is Canada Day on July 1, the anniversary of confederation in 1867. Canada does not have a patron saint because there has never been a state church in this country. In Canada, Quebec alone celebrates Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day on June 24.

We now have a national day to recognize indigrnour people on June 21. On National Indigenous Peoples Day we recognize and celebrate the history, heritage, resilience and diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis across Canada.

Canada has become increasingly multicultural since Confederation. In recent years there have been in Prince Albert celebrates of Diwali, the festival of lights, which is the biggest annual celebration in India. Muslims in Prince Albert have celebrated Eid at the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting and prayer. I expect other cultures will soon enhance the Prince Albert social scene.