Firstly, it’s pronounced “kay-lee.” Yes, I had no clue how to say it when I first saw it as well. However, once you get over how weirdly it’s spelled, you’ll realize that ceidlidhs are the best!
So what is a ceilidh? Think square dancing, but replace cowboy boots with kilts and country music with Scottish fiddlers. A band leads lads and lasses in dizzy choreography and dancers continually step on feet and elbow nearby couples. It’s incredibly fun (and sweaty).
The Aberdeen Christian Union (CU) hosted the ceilidh that I attended. I had known about the event for a while, as I’m in a CU Bible study and often attend the group’s gatherings. Except, I had absolutely no clue what to expect, considering I’m American and didn’t even know how to pronounce “ceilidh.”
Therefore, my friends and I didn’t even know what to wear to the event. We asked a few of our older CU friends (shoutout to Rachel and Sarah!), and they basically told us to go with dresses and tights. I took there advice and facetimed my sister to ask her what dress I should wear. In the end, my nephew picked a simple black dress as the winner. I paired it up with pink lipstick, and I was ready to go!
When we arrived at the ceilidh, we were happy to see a hodgepodge of outfits. Some girls wore dresses and others wore jeans, but tons of guys had on kilts! One of my friends jokingly commented, “We have to dance with a guy in a kilt by the end of tonight.”
It wasn’t hard to do this, as many of the dances involved girls traveling to new partners after each set of choreography. We would line up in a huge circle, and the lads would spin us to the guy beside us. Each set of choreography allowed for minimal conversation.
“What’s your name?”
“I’m so dizzy!”
“Where’d you say you’re from?”
“Oh, we’re spinning again…”
“Okay, it was nice dancing with youuuuu!”
The band that played was incredibly good, too. It consisted of guitarists and fiddlers, and they alternated between two or three recognizable Scottish tunes. The main band member, the guitarist, called the dances and also gave a brief testimony in the middle of the event.
Overall, the event made me feel incredibly Scottish, especially at the end. Traditionally, ceilidhs end with everyone joining hands and singing “Auld Lang Syne.” Dancers eventually cross arms and run into the center of the circle as the music gets faster and faster. My CU friend Rachel invited me to join her, and dancers started crashing into us during this part of the song. Not only did that make the experience interesting, but I also didn’t know any of the words to the tune.
“None of us do!” Rachel shouted to me over the music. “We just sing random noises.”
I went home with a smile on my face, Scottish music stuck in my head, and heels in my hand. Also, I woke up the next morning with aching ankles. Therefore, I’d say that it was a great night, and I can’t wait till Aberdeen hosts another ceilidh.