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Robert Burns, or Rabbie Burns (January 25, 1759-July 21, 1796), is Scotland's best-loved bard and the national poet of Scotland. Since they were first published, his poetry and songs have never been out of fashion. Translations have made him a classic in other languages, and in Scottish households where books have been few, an edition of Burn's poetry has often stood on the shelf with the family bible. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "The people who care nothing for literature and poetry, care for Burns." With their writing, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott created an enduring Scottish identity at a time when the Scots might have been entirely absorbed into a general British culture. In particular, Burns preserved the Scots tongue in literary form. His best known works include his poem (and song) "Auld Lang Syne", traditionally sung at Hogmany (New Year's Eve), and "Scots Wha Hae", which served for a long time as the unofficial national anthem of Scotland. Other poems and songs of Burns that remain well known today include, "A Red, Red Rose"; "A Man's A Man A'That"; "To a Louse"; "To a Mouse"; "Ae Fond Kiss"; and "The Cottar's Saturday Night".
As the most-loved figure in Scottish history and literature, his birthday, January 25th, is an annual occasion for "Burns Night" festivities celebrating all things Scottish. Burns Suppers range from formal gatherings of scholars and historians to uproariously informal rave-ups of drunkards and louts. Most Burns Suppers fall in the middle of this range, and adhere, more or less, to some sort of a time honored tradition which includes the eating of traditional Scottish foods, the drinking of Scotch whisky, and the recitation of works by, about, and in the spirit of the Scottish bard.