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Scottish partying

Edinburgh, UK (View on map)

Partying is an essential part of growing up in Scotland. Apart from the many pub-quizzes, karaoke, board game or darts competitions, there are quite a few events that lead to celebrations all over Scotland. Here`s a a quick selection of the most appealing ones:

Kirsten (28):

`Burns Day is one the most important national days of the year`
Scotland does not have an Independence Day or any collective celebrations of Royal Family birthdays. Most of the national events are related to historical moments or ancient celtic traditions. One of Scotland`s most important national events honours not a battlefield hero but a poet. It`s Mr Robert Burns, who lived in the 18th century and is known for his ironic way of recording daily life during that era.

Party recipe
`Burns Day is one the most important national days of the year`, says Kirsten (28). `On the 25th of January of each year, people will get together for a Burns supper. The tradition dictates that the poem Ode to the Haggis be cited. One person then stabs a unit of Haggis with a knife, cuts it to pieces and distributes it to those present.` For the sake of completeness, this is how Wikipedia describes the ingredients of Haggis: sheep`s `pluck` (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally boiled in the animal's stomach for approximately an hour. Whiskey is served along with the meal and, depending on the venue, some more party rituals may take place.

Another day Scots are attached to is Hogmanay: Scottish New Year`s Eve. Edinburgh has got the biggest Hogmanay in all of Scotland, now comprising four days of celebrations. It includes fireworks launched from the castle at 31 December midnight. The rest of the program is constructed around dancing, while drinking will do the rest. Many tourists come to Edinburgh to mix in with the crowds, which leads Ross (27) to think the whole event is a bit overrated and commercialised. He comments: `Hogmanay used to be a public event held in the area of the city`s main street, but we nowadays even need tickets to be allowed in.`

Lynne (28) tells about people dancing in the street during the entire evening: `C?ilidh, as it`s called, is a Scottish way of collective dancing. It may happen in circles, in lines, figures or in pairs. It is common for someone instructing a group of people before the dancing actually takes off, so people will know what to do when. Many people, including myself, learnt the basics of C?ilidh dancing in primary school.`

C?ilidhs will make many people wear the well-known Scottish kilts, oftentimes rented from agencies rather than owned by the people wearing them. Quite a few families have their own tartan, colour pattern, to the kilts, and they will wear them on official occasions, which may include anything from marriages up to traditional parties and competitions organised for the sole sake of dancing.

Smaller events
Saint Andrew`s Day, 30 November, is the official national holiday of Scotland. In recent years, there have been some political arguments about which flag (the UK Union Jack or Scotland`s own Saltire) was flown. It used to be the Union Jack for buildings with one flagpole and both flags whenever possible. That order is now only observed by government buildings. All others will put the Scottish one as first choice. In spite of the political involvement, many people do not even get a day off work. Only some towns will hold C?ilidhs, but that is about where it ends.

On Guy Fawkes Night, many villages in the UK and former Commonwealth members commemorate the failure of the Gun Powder Plot, an attempt by Guy Fawkes to blow up the Houses of Parliament in the early 1600s. It is celebrated on 5 November with fireworks and a bonfire. Some puppets representing Guy Fawkes and his conspirators risk getting burnt at the stake.

For sports fans, the Highland Games are a nice change from the ordinary. Mostly held in summer, these events show brave men and women celebrate their celtic origins by throwing stuff around and competing to cover the greatest distance or height. Devices flying around include trees (Caber Tossing), hammers, and bundles of straws on sticks. Traditional wear is common, bagpipes surround the Games, and the sportive part is complemented by dancing and music competitions.

No excuses
Christmas does not have much religious undertone to it. The 25th of December mostly features the Queen`s annual speech, turkey for dinner and presents under the Christmas tree. Halloween (31 October) is more of a children`s party, they will go around their neighbourhood to collect sweets and make face-shaped candle holders out of pumpkins. Retailers have inflated Halloween as a major reason for people to go to parties, but otherwise: Scots can possibly take anything as a reason for a pub visit or a wee party with friends.

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