What is a Ceilidh?

Same. What the heck is a Ceilidh? Story time!

About a week and a half ago, at Derwent College, student run, social society called the JCRC (I do not know what that stands for, I tried looking it up but no luck). They sent out a Facebook invite to the event called “Derwent College Burns Formal and Ceilidh”. Being the adventurer that I am, I signed up immediately without having a clue what it was. After a couple of days, I learned that a “Ceilidh” (pronounced like kay-lee) is a traditional Scottish dance!

Now the day has come and I walk into the venue completely oblivious to whatever I was getting myself into. I settled down at a table of all exchange students who were equally as oblivious as I and we excitingly wait for what may come next. After about ten minutes of conversation, the ever-famous melody or a bagpipe fills echoes across the room. (I whip my head around the room to see what a bagpipe looks like in person only to be upset to find out it was coming out of the speakers set up across the room.) I see this man in full Scottish attire (yes that means a kilt) walk around the room holding a plate of what looks like a dead rat with garnish to make it look pretty… He walks around the room with the “rat” and places it at the head table nearest the stage. He then proceeds to the microphone and declares that it was, in fact, haggis. Haggis is a very traditional Scottish meal of sheep liver (Fact: at most pubs you can add a side of haggis for only a pound!).

He addresses the room and sits down for dinner. The best part of any event, right? Well here was my chance to try that dead rat looking thing from before… yay… super excited. Luckily though the haggis was in a shape of a meatball soaking in a rich gravy served with a side of veggies and mashed potatoes. Although I was not looking forward to eating any sort of liver that evening, it was DELICIOUS! Oh my goodness, I could have eaten my weight in those meatballs! So good!


The haggis meatballs. So good!

After dinner, there was a tradition Scottish whiskey tasting. I personally did not partake in this part, but they had an array of different whiskey that varied in taste: peppery, sweet, and maple were just a few of the flavors there.Finally, after everyone was done enjoying their whisky, the Ceilidh started. All the tables were removed from the venue and the host (I don’t know if that is the right word. He was a Scottish man leading the dance. So maybe the leader?) told us to grab a partner for the night. Now I would tell you how the dance goes but turns out there are hundreds of different dances that all count as a “Ceilidh.” I believe the music is the same and that is why there are so many variations. That night alone we did at least a dozen of them, so I will just tell you may favorite.


The whiskey tasting!

Ok imagination time. You and your partner stand side by side facing another couple doing the same. In addition, there are another two couples facing each other and all together we made a square where we are all looking in. The couple nearest the band and the couple facing them head on were considered the “top” couples while the other two standing perpendicular to the stage were the “side” couples. It starts off where the top couples would hold their partners hands and then gallop in a figure eight around each other. They would finish and then the side couples would do the same (the beat would tell you when it was time to switch). When not in motion, you were supposed to stand in your original spot, so the other couples could do the next moves. After each couple performed their figure eight, the top couples would put their right hand in the middle and gallop for 4 gallops then switch to their left hand and do the same. Once they finish, the side couples repeat. Now my favorite part: when that finished, the top couple would walk to the center and make a small four-person square. The boys would wrap their arms around the girl’s waist and the girls would wrap their arms around the men’s shoulders (similar as if you were trying to help someone walk with a bum leg). The boys would put their right foot side by side in the middle and start spinning using their two feet in the center as a focal point. The goal was to spin fast and literally lift the women off the ground and have their legs spin around all willy-nilly in the air. Once done, the side couple would repeat and then all would grab hands in a circle and gallop left for 4 gallops and then right for 4 gallops. Then you would repeat the entire thing for like another 5 times! (I know that is a lot, so I have videos to show some of the dances!). It was square dancing on Scottish steroids!

That was just one dance, and like I said before, we did dozens! A Ceilidh is no joke! We would get small water breaks, but for the most part, you are constantly moving quickly trying to keep up. Now I see the benefit of a kilt because it helps you breath down below. I was dripping in sweat…

In the end, that would be one of my most cherished memory I will take with me when I leave the UK. Ceilidh= Fun Energy.




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