It’s nearly time to dig out your tartan and join our Scottish brethren in honouring the man who brought us Auld Lang Syne.
Born in Ayr on January 25, 1759, Robert Burns was only 37 when he died in Dumfries, but managed to cram an awful lot into those four decades, including the famous epic poem Tam o’Shanter, about a man who stayed too long in the pub.
Burns’ love of life is celebrated every year on his birthday with a traditional Burns Night Supper, involving haggis, the reading of his Address To A Haggis, and lashings of whisky, music and dancing.
Not convinced? Well maybe you will be when you realise the evening is actually full of health and wellbeing benefits.
1. The whisky
From the Gaelic “Uisge Beatha”, meaning water of life, a wee dram of whisky has been found to have more ellagic acid than red wine – according to Dr Jim Swan, who told this to a health conference in Glasgow in 2005. Also found in fruit, the acid is an antioxidant that could potentially absorb rogue cancer cells in the body.
A study in 1998 found that the antioxidants in a shot of whisky could protect against heart disease, while drinking moderate amounts of alcohol can apparently lower the odds of dementia. Further research may one day prove the “water of life” is just that…
2. The meal
The main focus of the Burns Night celebration is of course the haggis. Marmite to many, don’t let the thought of the sheep’s liver, heart and lungs stuffed into the stomach lining put you off. Mixed with oatmeal to give it a mealy consistency, it’s flavoured with onion and spices and served with potatoes (tatties) and turnips (neeps). Yum!
The good news is liver and lungs are high in vitamin A, B6, B12 and C, along with minerals like folate, selenium and iron. But they’re also high in cholesterol, so don’t overdo it. On the plus side, you’ll be getting one of your five a day from the neeps, while the tatties are stuffed with vitamin C, B vitamins and potassium. For pudding, plump for cranachan made with raspberries (five-a-day points), cream (calcium), and oatmeal soaked in whisky and honey.
3. The laughter
Long known as “the best medicine”, laughs are thick and fast during a Burns Night supper, partly thanks to the whisky and partly due to the bard’s funny take on life. How many people have written odes to their favourite food and called it, “Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race!”?
Traditional suppers involve speeches including a toast to the lassies and a reply to the laddies, where the men and women get to share their views on the other sex. Guaranteed to raise a smile.
4. The dancing
After all the eating and speeches, it’s time to kick up your heels with a ceilidh – and burn off some of the calories from the meal.
There’s nothing quite so much fun as attempting to Strip The Willow with a roomful of merry Brits. And it’s a pretty vigorous workout. An hour of ceilidh can burn up to 400 calories and works pretty much all the muscles in your body.
5. The words
Burns’ poems will be read throughout the evening and the night ends, naturally, with a rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne, which nicely bookends January after we’ve all sung it at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Singing has been proved to have all sorts of health and wellbeing benefits, including reducing stress levels, boosting the immune system and heart.
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