Scots mark 250 years since national poet Burns's birth
AFP - 2 hours 29 minutes ago
LONDON (AFP) - - With whisky, haggis and poetry, Scots around the world were celebrating the 250th anniversary Sunday of the birth of national bard Robert Burns, whose works include "Auld Lang Syne."
Millions who claim Scots ancestry worldwide will enjoy a traditional Burns supper of haggis -- sheep's heart and lungs chopped up with spices and oatmeal and stuffed into a sheep's stomach -- plus "neeps" (turnips) and "tatties" (potatoes).
Devoted "Rabbie" fans will also recite his "Address To A Haggis," which hails the "great chieftain o' the puddin-race," before tucking into their meal.
In the small town of Alloway where Burns was born and across Scotland, thousands of people are expected to join celebrations including a church service at Glasgow cathedral in Scotland's biggest city.
The story of Burns is also being projected onto the facade of Glasgow City Hall in a running 15-minute light and sound show, which will end on Sunday night.
The bard's birthday will be celebrated in countries including the United States, Canada, Australia, China, Hong Kong and Japan, according to national tourism body VisitScotland, which runs a website monitoring them.
More than 3,000 Burns supper events were registered in locations as diverse as Moscow or Malawi in southern Africa.
Up to 10,000 people were expected Sunday at an evening lantern procession in Dumfries, the town where he died in 1796, for the burning of an effigy of Tam O'Shanter, arguably his most famous literary creation,
Born to a humble farming family on January 25, 1759, Burns died aged just 37, but his often bawdy verse, written in Scots dialect, is peppered with references to drinking, womanising and good times.
He is perhaps best known for "Auld Lang Syne", the words of which are sung by millions around the world each New Year's Eve.
Sunday also sees the launch of a major tourism drive by the devolved Scottish government -- which wants full independence from London starting with a referendum on Scotland's national day, November 30, in 2010.
Encouraging those with Scottish roots to come back and visit, the Edinburgh government wants to attract at least an extra 100,000 tourists to Scotland this year, generating an extra 40 million pounds (41.8 million euros, 54.3 million dollars).
Burns's hometown of Alloway in Ayrshire, southwest Scotland, opened a Scotland-wide programme of poetry readings, music and dance to celebrate his life Saturday.
Later Sunday, it will host a Burns supper attended by First Minister Alex Salmond, whose pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) took power in Edinburgh in 2007.
Salmond described Burns as "Scotland's human being of the millennium" late Saturday.
Fans of the poet have set up a website in a bid to break the world record for the largest simultaneous toast, hoping that hundreds of thousands will raise their glasses to "the immortal memory of Robert Burns" Sunday night.
Burns's face also adorns a set of British postage stamps commemorating the anniversary, with one featuring the words of one of his best-known poems, "A Man's A Man For A' That".
The poem, written in 1795, became an anthem of the slavery abolitionists. Two centuries later, it was sung at the opening of the Scottish parliament in 1999.
"Around the world, people are proud of Robert Burns," said British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, himself a Scot and a fan of Burns's writings.
"I think the whole world has a right to celebrate the achievement of one of the great poets of all time."
Prince Charles joined Salmond in reading poems for the Burns archive, which is aimed at ensuring that his poems are available to future generations.
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Prime Minister Gordon Brown (R) looks at commemorative stamps presented during a reception at No 10 Downing Street on January 20, 2009. Scots all around the world are celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Burns -- whose works include "Auld Lang Syne" -- with whisky, haggis and poetry readings.
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