Saturday, January 25, 2014

Why Is Robert Burns' Night Popular in America?

Pres. Lincoln Invited to Burns' Celebration (LOC)
Scotland is Not That Far
Even if you don’t know Robert Burns, the 1700 poet, you know his work. It is not clear how Robert Burns, also known as the Bard of Ayshire, and the Rabbie Burns,  became so influential to the American culture. But, even in January 1864, President Abraham Lincoln was invited to a Robert Burns celebration.

Like many President Lincoln admired Robert Burns’ poems. A quick search found other admirers:
  • John Steinbeck’s 1937 novel, Of Mice and Men, was titled after Burn’s To A Mouse. 
  • Bob Dylan gives credit to Burns’ 1794 song A Red, Red Rose for “creative inspiration” and for having the biggest effect on his life.”   
O my luve is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my luve’s like the melodie
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonny lass
So deep in luve am I;
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry
  • Coca Cola, 2009 Generation,  Robert Burns was staring at you from the commemorative bottles!
Auld Lang Syne
But what we really know of Burns is his well-known 1788 folk song, Auld Lang Syne.  Annually, we hum along New Years Eve in remembrance of “times gone by.”
Should auld [old] acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!
Chorus: For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We'll tak [take] a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Did you know it was written by the Scottish poet? Most only know the melody, but the words of dedicated to “time long passed” peak our emotions and has even been filmed in some of our favorites:
1937 Wee Willie Winkie (Shirley Temple)
1946, It’s A Wonderful Life”
1989,  When Harry Met Sally
2008,  Sex in the City

The Burns' Night Toast
As you enjoy your haggis, neeps (turnips)  and tatties (potatoes), follow President Lincoln's example and at least offer a toast to ‘ole Robert!

For More Information

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers

We have had one a3Genealogy client who holds Robert Burn’s Cousin bragging rights, 2012.

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