Everything you need for Burns Night
Looking for the lowdown on Burns Night? Discover all you need to know about one of Scotland’s best-loved celebrations, try out some essential Scottish recipes and get advice for hosting your very own Burns supper.
Burns Night has been celebrated in Scotland for over 200 years. You may have heard of the celebration and wondered what’s involved in this classic Scottish get-together, or perhaps you’ve felt slightly daunted on where to get started.
Burns Night was originally started by friends of Robert Burns as a supper with recitals of his much-loved work to commemorate the 5th anniversary of this death. Today, the celebration is held on or around his birthday on 25 January but the sentiment is the still the same; an evening of Caledonian food and drink, friendship and a chance to celebrate the nation’s favourite poet.
Who was Robert Burns?
Robert, also known as “Rabbie”, was a Scottish poet and lyricist, famous for writing classics such as Auld Lang Syne, Tam O Shanter and A Red, Red Rose. Since his death in 1796, Burns has become a national treasure to the Scots and his birthday is celebrated each year in the form of a Burns Supper.
What’s on a traditional Burns Night menu?
If you’re hosting or attending a Burns Supper, you can definitely expect poetry recitals, whisky toasts and perhaps even the sharp tones of bagpipes carrying you through the evening. The focus of the supper however is of course, the traditional Scottish fayre. Make sure to attend on an empty stomach as you’re certainly in for a hearty Scottish feast.
If you’re intending on having three courses, you might find that you wish to start with a Cullen skink – which is a popular Scottish smoked fish soup.
Haggis is no doubt the highlight of the evening, and a special poem dedicated to the centrepiece itself is typically recited before serving. In a traditional Burns Supper, you might find that the haggis is led to the table by the sound of bagpipes before being served in its true Scottish form: alongside neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes). Serve each side dish as you may – roasted, mashed or creamed – or try the Scottish recipe “clapshot” which mashes both side dishes together.
If you’ve still got room for dessert, try making some cranachan for pudding, which is usually made with fresh raspberries and Scottish oats.
Twists on a classic
The menu, just like the classic ceremony, has not changed much either over the years. However, with Scottish descendants scattered all over the world, the supper now often incorporates elements of the local cuisine and regional flavours too. Seasonal variations and contemporary twists on the menu are gladly welcomed; try our haggis sausage rolls if you’re just hosting people for Burns Night drinks and nibbles.
An evening of warm atmosphere
The one thing that resonates throughout the heart of every Burns Supper is the sense of pride to simply be a part of the celebration. Whether you host your own Burns Night on a small or large scale, make sure you take a moment to soak up the warm feeling of spending time with good friends, eating tasty food and, perhaps, enjoying a dram or two of a good single malt in celebration of the man himself.
What’s the typical running order of a Burns Supper?
Every Burns Supper is unique and there’s no right or wrong way to celebrate the Scottish poet. Should you wish to do things in the traditional fashion, here’s a typical running order of events:
- The welcoming of your guests: Bagpipes normally pipe in the guests as they arrive into the area in which the supper is to be held. Chances are, you won’t have a set of pipes to hand, so feel free to pop on some classic Scottish music to get the party started.
- Pre-dinner poems: Typically, a grace will be said before the meal begins. The most famous poem to be recited beforehand would be the Selkirk Grace.
- The arrival of the star-attraction: The bagpipes make a return at this stage to pipe in the haggis, which is traditionally carried in on a silver platter. The recital of a poem dedicated to the haggis (Address To A Haggis) is then carried out before the room raises a glass in toast to the beloved dish.
- Supper is served: The quintessential main course of haggis, neeps and tatties is then served however many variations can be enjoyed.
- After supper: Classic works of Burns are then recited throughout the evening. Amongst them, you can expect to hear The Immortal Memory and a Toast To The Lassies (which is a toast to all of the ladies present) before a Toast To The Laddies (a recital to the men in the room).
- Auld Lang Sine: As is now tradition at many celebrations, the guests end the evening by gathering together to sing one of Burns’ most well-loved songs, often linking arms whilst singing together.
Take a gander at some of our tasty Burns Night recipes to ensure your Burns Supper is a roaring success.
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