Scottish poet Robert Burns

Scottish poet Robert Burns has been celebrated with annual birthday dinners for more than 200 years. Photo: Mount Dora Sister Cities Association.

Robert Burns, considered Scotland’s national poet, was born on Jan. 25, 1759. While he died in 1796, his legacy lives on – along with annual birthday celebrations that have been going on since 1801.

Here in Lake County, the Mount Dora Sister Cities Association has been celebrating the Scottish with Robert Burns for years, and it returns Jan. 22. (The pandemic caused the cancellation of the 2021 dinner.)

“Every year near that date, we, like thousands of others around the world, celebrate the Beloved National Bard of Scotland,” says the association, which is a sister city of Forres, located in Morayshire, Scotland.

The Mount Dora event will honor the poet with traditional festivities.

“We hold a dinner, give toasts, read poems and listen to live Celtic music,” Mitch Campbell, Mount Dora Sister Cities Association director emailed. “There’s also a Haggis, along with its ceremony, pomp and circumstance.”

“In 1801, on the fifth anniversary of the death of Robert Burns, nine men who knew him met for dinner in Burns Cottage in Alloway to celebrate his life and works,” according to a Scotland.org article by Clark McGinn. “It was such a jolly evening, all agreed to meet again the following January for a Birthday Dinner for the bard.” 

Burns, son of a tenant farmer, was known for his poems and songs, as well as his rebellion against orthodox religion, says Britannica, which describes him as “both a rebel against the social order of his day and a bitter satirist of all forms of religious and political thought that condoned or perpetuated inhumanity.”

McGinn said Burns’ popularity grew after his untimely death, and people decided to meet every year to share his poems and songs. As the decades passed, annual celebrations began to be held in England, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the U.S. and beyond.

“This is a celebration of the life and works of Robert Burns, Scotland’s favorite son – except maybe for Sean Connery,” Campbell said in the email. 

The Mount Dora dinner will take place at St. Edward’s Episcopal Church, 460 N. Grandview Street. Seating is limited.

For ticket information, visit 

https://mountdorasistercities.org/burns-supper.

The Mount Dora Sister Cities Association is known in the community for its free Plaid in the Park event, held at Sunset Park the second Saturday of each month.

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