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People Around The World Toast To Robert Burns' 260th Birthday

(SOUNDBITE OF THE ROYAL SCOTS DRAGOON GUARDS' "AULD LANG SYNE")

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind - the opening lines of "Auld Lang Syne," a song people often turn to while ringing in the new year.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Its words were written by Robert Burns, and today marks his 260th birthday. He's regarded as the national poet of Scotland. Here's Dr. Pauline Mackay, a lecturer in Robert Burns studies at the University of Glasgow.

PAULINE MACKAY: Robert Burns has done a great deal to take Scotland to the world. It's through Robert Burns that Scottish culture has been communicated in places that it may not have been otherwise.

MARTIN: One of his works is "Ae Fond Kiss," sung here by Scottish singer-songwriter Eddi Reader.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AE FOND KISS")

EDDI READER: (Singing) A fond kiss, and then we sever - a farewell, alas, forever.

ALISON WALKER: His legacy is the way he wrote and the compassion with which he wrote about a whole range of subjects.

MARTIN: That's Alison Walker. She's a journalist and member of the Guild of Burns Speakers (ph).

INSKEEP: Who knew?

MARTIN: That means she toasts Burns' accomplishments at what are called Burns suppers.

INSKEEP: Burns suppers have roots in the 1800s. People gather together on Burns' birthday to celebrate his works, a tradition that has spread.

WALKER: Honestly, everywhere, to - in more than 200 countries, there will be a Burns supper happening, which is phenomenal. It's just phenomenal. And they will all follow the traditional format.

INSKEEP: The format includes toasts and traditional Scottish dishes - another way that Burns has helped to spread Scottish culture.

MARTIN: So tonight maybe consider some haggis for dinner, a little Scotch whisky to toast the great poet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.