January 25th marks Robbie Burns Day, the birthday of Scotland’s National Poet. To honour the esteemed bard, people in Scotland and around the globe will mark this event with a celebratory evening of food, music, and most importantly, poetry. Burns Night Suppers (as they are typically called) are held on or around Robbie Burns Day.
In 1801, friends of Robbie Burns hosted the first Burns Supper. Wishing to honour the poet after his death, they organised a dinner at Burns’ birthplace and former cottage in Alloway. The evening was considered a great success and the friends decided to annually mark Robbie Burns’ birthday with a celebratory supper. Today, Burns Suppers are held all over the world.
There are numerous ways in which people celebrate Robbie Burns Day; however, the customary way of honouring the poet involves a traditional Scottish meal, Scottish whiskey and the recitation of Burn’s poetry and music. If you plan on attending a traditional Burns Supper, then be prepared for an evening of ritual, theatrics, fun and delicious food.
The events of the evening usually follow a set program that opens with a welcome from the host and the recitation of the Selkirk Grace (a prayer of thanks attributed to Burns).
This is followed by the evening’s biggest dramatics – the “Parade of the Haggis” and the “Address to the Haggis”. The skirl of the bagpipes commences the “Parade of the Haggis”, and everyone stands as the piper enters the hall followed by the chef carrying the highly anticipated haggis.
Next, is the recitation of Burns’ “Address to the Haggis”. This recitation is given with great ceremony and the highpoint is the dramatic slicing open of the haggis. Everyone toasts the haggis and dinner is served.
A typical dinner is composed of haggis, neeps and tatties. For those of you that are not familiar with this traditional Scottish fare, here is a brief description. – Haggis, widely considered Scotland’s national dish, is composed of minced sheep offal (heart, liver, lungs), mixed with onion, oats, suet and spices.
Though traditionally simmered in a sheep’s stomach, these days it is more commonly encased in synthetic sausage casing. While sounding most exotic, neeps and tatties are just the Scottish names for turnips and potatoes. When served with haggis, both vegetables are deliciously mashed with butter and seasoning. The combination of haggis, neeps and tatties makes for an absolutely delectable meal and is one of the highlights of the evening.
“O my Luve’s like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June:
O my Luve’s like the melodie,
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.
Poems & Music
After the meal, tributes to Burns continue with toasts and speeches. The first is the Immortal Memory Speech, which is a personalised homage to Burns. Next there is usually a performance of Burns’ songs, followed by the Toast to the Lassies and the Reply to the Toast to the Lassies. The evening’s program closes with a final Burns recitation.
My favourite Burns Night Suppers are the ones that end with a ceilidh. After all that food and whiskey, a traditional Scottish dance is the best way to wrap up the evening. Scotland’s lively and spirited music is guaranteed to get your toes tapping. Fear not, if you are not familiar with the steps.
The Scots are a friendly folk; you will have no problem getting a lesson and your feet will be moving in no time. Burns Night Suppers are a wonderful opportunity to immerse oneself in Scottish culture and an experience I highly recommend.
Celebrate Robbie Burns Day in Scotland
Burns themed events occur all over the globe. If you are interested in finding one near you, then be sure to check out your local Burns Club or Scottish Society. If you are lucky enough to be in Scotland around January 25th, then why not plan on attending one of Scotland’s numerous Burns events. Below is a selection of Burns Day and Burns Night Events around Scotland that are guaranteed to give you a memorable Scottish experience.
Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Alloway, Ayr
This Burns Supper is perhaps the most authentic Burns experience. The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum hosts a traditional Burns Supper inside the three-room thatched cottage where Robert Burns was born. This historic cottage is not only Burns’ former home, but it is also where the first Burns Supper was held in 1801.
Tickets are priced at £250.00 and all proceeds go to the restoration of the Burns Monument. Space is very limited and it is highly recommended that you book this event well in advance. January 25, 2018.
For more information, please visit: http://www.burnsmuseum.org.uk
Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh
Located on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, the Scottish Storytelling Centre is an arts venue that offers live storytelling, theatre, music and family events.
During the week of Robbie Burns Day, they are offering a number of Burns’ themed events that include:
CAFÉ CEILIDH: BURNS CELEBRATION
This free event is an afternoon of traditional songs and poems celebrating Robert Burns. January 23, 2018.
SUPPER WITH BURNS
This event includes a 3-course Scottish meal and is accompanied by Burns’ poems and music. Hosted by acclaimed storytellers, the highlight of the evening will be a dramatic recitation of Tam O’Shanter.
Tickets are £25 and it is recommended that you book early. January 24th and 25th
For more information about events at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, please visit: http://www.tracscotland.org/scottish-storytelling-centre/centre-events
Ghillie Dhu, Edinburgh
Ghillie Dhu is a traditional Scottish bar and restaurant located in Edinburgh. During the week of Robbie Burns Day they are offering a Robbie Burns Experience that includes a traditional Scottish meal followed by a lively Ceilidh. January 19-28
For more information, please visit: http://ghillie-dhu.co.uk/burns-night/
Òran Mór Burns Supper, Glasgow
Formerly the Kelvinside Parish Church, Òran Mór is a thriving arts and entertainment venue in Glasgow’s west end.
Join them on January 27th for a Burns Night Supper that includes a 3-course meal with live music and entertainment.
For more information, please visit: https://oran-mor.co.uk