In January there are two special events that take place in English-speaking countries, within a day of each other.
On the 25th of January ‘Burns Night’ is celebrated in Scotland. It commemorates the birthday of the famous, 18th century, Scottish poet Robert Burns, who is regarded as an icon of Scotland. He wrote many poems in English, Scottish and the Scots dialect, and is the first person who wrote down the traditional folk song ‘Auld Lang Syne’ which is now sung all over the world at New Year. To celebrate, people have a ‘Burns Supper’ in the evening where they eat traditional Scottish food, drink whisky and recite Burns’ poems. The main meal is usually haggis, neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes). Haggis is a sausage inside a sheep’s stomach. It is very important and people play bagpipes and recite Burns’ poem ‘Address to a Haggis’ before eating it.
On the other side of the world, the 26th of January is ‘Australia Day’, the official national day of Australia and the anniversary of the arrival of the first eleven ships of prisoners from the United Kingdom in 1788. It is a public holiday and celebrated with huge parades, concerts, festivals and fireworks. There are also many citizenship ceremonies for new Australian citizens. Whilst it is still widely celebrated there is some controversy over the name and date of the day, with many people protesting that it celebrates the invasion and colonisation of the indigenous people.
So, if you ever find yourself in Scotland or Australia at this time make sure you take a look. It’s also interesting to think about how different these two events are although they happen at the same time. One takes place in cold winter, with a fire and meaty food, whereas the other is in hot summer with barbecues and ice creams. Their contrast is testament to the diversity of all the English-speaking countries.