Some Hae Meat

On Saturday the 24th of January, a colleague invited me and the notorious M.C. to the “Burns Nicht Supper,” an annual event in many locations around the world, celebrating the birthday of the Scottish poet Robert Burns. Go here for a typical evening’s program, Alberta version.

“You’ll see,” she said. “The Presbyterians provide the organization, and the Pagans provide the music and energy” . . . or words to that effect.

I tied on my dress Gordon necktie (Victorian invention, all that specific clan tartan stuff); the notorious M.C. combed her red hair and dressed in black, and off we went, to the dining hall of The Retired Enlisted Association in Colorado Springs, a suitably banner-hung and martial venue. Aside from one singer/guitarist and his companion, who set off my . . . what’s the Pagan equivalent of “gaydar”? . . . I would say that the Presbyterian influence dominated the evening.

All the elements were there: the haggis was piped, the toasts were drunk, and the wee laddies and lassies danced around basket-hilted broadswords as large as they were. I give the Scottish Society of the Pike’s Peak Region credit for this: they are not afraid to let children handle large edged weapons. Imagine such a thing in a public school in this safety-crazed age.

But eventually it all wore on us, and we slipped away before “Auld Lang Syne” was sung, pleading the long drive home.

The same Scottish Society of the Pike’s Peak Region will be “kirkin’ the tartan” in our former home of Manitou Springs come April 3. A little research reveals that this seemingly ancient “tradition” was invented early on in World War II to build American support for the British cause, in the months before the Pearl Harbor attack brought us into the war. Now it has become a major American and Canadian tourist event: here is one example from Nova Scotia.

As for the Pagans, I think that they are at the Highland Games that are spreading everywhere.