Tales of Scotland:
A Ceilidh To Remember
I have officially been in Scotland for over 6 months and throughout this time I have explored the Scottish Highlands, ate a delicious meal of Haggis and Cullen Skink, wandered aimlessly through the gothic streets of Edinburgh and celebrated Hogmanay (of which my recollection is only 10% of the night), but I had not had the chance to experience the quintessential Scottish tradition: a ceilidh.
This being said, when my mate (Scott) from Glasgow invited me to a ceilidh he was hosting at his student union, I jumped at the chance! And it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
A Ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) is a social gathering where a band is hired to play traditional gaelic music while everyone dances along to the songs. Now this isn't an event where you can show off your superior dance repertoire of running mans and MC Hammer dancing. No, these dances are set.
Don't worry, this isn't like a 90s movie scene where everyone knows all the dances and just breaks out randomly without explanation or instruction. Well, to be fair a lot of Scottish natives do know most of the dances already but this is because they were taught them all through grade school. Fortunately, if you aren't familiar with any of the dances like I am, they explain the moves before each song. They are relatively easy dances and even if you struggle at first, you usually end up getting it by the end of the dance.
Hey if I can do it, you can do it. Believe me, dancing isn't exactly my specialty...
If you ever get the pleasure of attending a ceilidh, I will give you a couple of tips that will better prepare you. This is based off of similar advice I was given before attending, and my own observations after.
1. Wear comfortable clothing
- Most ceilidhs are semi-formal events but that doesn't mean you need to dress fancy. However I would advise you to leave the grubby slacks at home.
- Ladies, this is not the time to show off your 5-inch stiletto heels that you got on sale at Primark. Nope, you will not be able to move and you will fall and break your ankle no matter how much you insist that they are 'comfortable' or that you are 'a pro at walking and dancing in heels'. Substitute for flats or nice trainers. Believe me, your feet will thank you afterward.
- Also, if you are wearing a dress I would advise you to put on spandex shorts underneath because you will be picked up and spun around during the dances and no one wants to see your new thong no matter how cute you think it is. Let your privates stay private; not everyone has to be privy to Victoria's Secrets...
- Men usually wear the traditional kilt but it definitely not mandatory! Just don't come in shorts and a t-shirt.
2. You WILL be bruised afterwards
- Ceilidhs can get pretty violent. I don't mean people bringing out the brass knuckles and nun-chucks and starting a brawl. I mean be prepared to be swung pretty aggressively especially during the final dance of the evening called Strip the Willow. It is the easiest and definitely the most fun dance of the night (also the most exhausting!) but some of the guys find it hilarious whipping the girls across the dance floor. Believe me, I have welts to prove it!
- But don't let this scare you off. Ceilidh's are totally worth the battle scars and if my experience frightens you, just remember that I have skinny chicken arms and the upper body strength of a paper clip so obviously I bruised much easier than any normal person.
3. Do not get drunk and ceilidh
- Sure you can drink, this is a party remember? But be cautious with how much you consume. I can almost promise you that you will have trouble doing the dance moves if you are completely wasted. And if you collapse on the floor, no one will shovel your arse off. No, they will just dance around you (and sometimes on you). So be aware!
4. Wear deodorant
- You WILL sweat. So for all you pompous ladies who insist that you never sweat...stop lying to yourself. This isn't just a warning, it's a fact. So deal with it.
- And men, please for the love of all that is holy in the world, freshen up those pits! No one likes BO. This counts for you too ladies, clean pits make for happy ceilidh!
5. Stop stressing!
- If you are a perfectionist like me and get incredibly stressed out when you mess up, stop!
- Ceilidhs are meant to be fun and if you mess up, who cares?! You're human and no one is going to judge you.
- And the truth is, you are definitely not the only one messing up! Believe me, even the veteran ceilidh dancers mess up at some point or another. The point is to have a good time not to showcase your skills on the dance floor!
If you get the chance to go to a Ceilidh, I strongly recommend it! It is unity and a genuine love of Scottish culture in it's purest form. Especially at the end when everyone joins hands and sings the traditional Auld Lang Syne.
*sigh* It was a truly magical and heartwarming experience.