Ceilidh Culture

One of the best parts about living in another country is being able to experience a different culture. Many people (myself included) assume that Scottish culture is pretty similar to American culture- we do speak the same language, after all. And while that is partially true, there are certain aspects of life here that are traditionally Scottish- and some that I had never even heard of before coming to Edinburgh.

And what's my favorite Scottish tradition? Ceilidh dancing!

A ceilidh, pronounced "KAY-lee," (just to save you the effort of Googling how to say it) is a Gaelic social gathering that entails folk music and lots of dancing. It also may or may not involve kilts (aka man-skirts).

Let me be honest, here: I am not exactly what many would call a "good" dancer. In fact, I think my dancing skills are pretty downright embarrassing. But, if I'm being told what the steps are (and they're simple enough), then I'm totally game. Throwback to the Sophomore Square-Off in high school- that was my prime.

Like American square dancing, ceilidhs involve partner dancing with a series of steps and patterns. Sometimes, you may even be dancing in groups or switching off partners. Unlike square dancing, however, the general notion among both teenagers and University students is that this form of traditional dancing is not lame in the slightest. When we were "forced" to square dance in high school, there were always groans and moans coming from the boys in particular. Let me tell you- that's not the case with ceilidhs!

With all of the high energy twirling and whirling, there's no way you can't have fun at a ceilidh. And not to say that it's the only contributing factor, but a little bit of alcohol in your system can loosen you up as you make your way to the dance floor.

Attending a ceilidh is also a great way to make new friends or bond with existing friends. This weekend, I went to a ceilidh hosted by my running club after our big race here in Edinburgh. It was an incredible way to bring together all the different running teams from across the entire UK- from Manchester to St. Andrews and all the way to Swansea (in Wales!). Obviously, not everyone was Scottish or had been to a ceilidh before, so the callers were quite helpful in directing us. Oh, and props to my Welsh dance partner who put up with my immense lack of knowledge!

Not the most appetizing-looking food, but I promise you it tasted glorious.

To make this weekend's happenings that much more Scottish, I'm happy to announce that I did, indeed, try haggis for the first time. Honestly, it seems that most people are freaked out by the idea of it rather than the taste. Yes, it is a mix of sheep heart, liver, and lungs combined with oats, but it tastes very pleasant- like spicy ground beef, I'd say. And the addition of neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes) makes it all the more amazing.

I think it's safe to say that after this weekend's ceilidh and haggis-eating, I am officially initiated into the wonderful world of the Scottish people.

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