The Charitable Side of... Burns Night

Georgina Lock

Tonight is Burns Night, and parties are held all week to swig whisky and eat sheep's stomachs - often with a worthy cause as a good excuse.

If you're looking for a cure for those January blues, the Scots have a great one in the shape of Robert Burns - and charities usually benefit.

Last year, for example, 200 guests at the Burns Night party at the British Embassy in Lithuania raised enough money to renovate the showers at the Vilnius Substance Abuse Treatment Centre - appropriate, really, given the general abuse at such events of a substance known as whisky.

Every 25 January since 1796, those north of the border have celebrated the day that is widely believed to be the birthday of their country's favourite poet. Their enthusiasm has spread far and wide and now millions all over the world don the tartan to pay homage to the poet.

Even those without a drop of Scottish blood in their veins have been lured into joining in by the prospect of drinking whisky, dancing reels and eating the lining of a sheep's stomach filled with wheat and meat of various descriptions.

The weeks following Christmas and New Year are not the most obvious time to ask people to dig deep. However, many Burns fans in the UK and beyond hold their Burns Suppers in aid of a worthy cause. For example, Rotary Clubs throughout the world - usually with some Scottish contingent, but not always - hold fundraising evenings in his name.

John Minhinick is a member of the Burnt Island and Kinghorn Rotary Club, which will be holding a Burns Supper at its clubrooms in Fife. As the various toasts - including those to the haggis and lasses as well as to the poet himself - will undoubtedly result in copious quantities of the water of life being necked, Minhinick expects the raffles and auctions to go "rather well".

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