Burns night, is the annual celebration of the life and work of famous Scots poet, Robert Burns (or Rabbie Burns to us Scots!). The celebration falls on the 25th January, the day of the poet’s birthday and usually involves what is known as a ‘Burns Supper’; an evening full of Scottish food and entertainment.
Image: The Guardian
Today, I will be joining my friends in celebration. So whether you’re having a small informal gathering, or a fancy dinner party, I’ve put together a guide on how to host the perfect Burns Supper.
For fantastic and easy Burns night recipes check out these on BBC Good Food.
Piping in the Guests
It’s customary to welcome your guests with a flood of traditional music, but don’t worry if you haven’t got a piper on your guest list. One of these tracks will do nicely.
The Selkirk Grace
This is a short prayer that is read out as the food arrives:
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.
This should of course be recited (or at least attempted) in old Scots.
Address to a Haggis
We like to welcome in the haggis (who is after all, the guest of honour) with not just more bagpipes, but everyone must stand as a toast is made in its honour. Address to a Haggis comes from a poem written by Robert Burns… if you don’t believe me listen on Pure Connect here.
The Supper (My favourite part)
Typically, a Burns Supper consists of haggis, neeps (mashed turnip) and tatties (mashed potato), not forgetting plenty of Scotch whisky. There are however variations and vegetarian haggis available for non-meat eaters.
This speech pays tribute to the life, poems and brazen nationalism of Robbie Burns. If you’re unfamiliar with his history, have a wee read here. After this speech everyone toasts to Burns, and the entertainment continues.
Toast to the Lassies
Perhaps one the most entertaining part of the evening, The Toast to the Lassies, is a speech given by one of the male guests, incorporating plenty of quotes from Burns himself. Traditionally, this was a toast to thank the women who prepared the dinner; however it’s now become a tongue in cheek speech often referencing the ladies present at supper.
Reply to the Laddies
This is the woman’s reply to the Toast to the Lassies, which is also supposed to be amusing. The lady giving the speech will comment on anything brought up in the previous toast, and her particular views on contemporary men.
This is a MUST for any Burns supper. Guests will recite the famous poems and songs of Burns. Have a listen to some of his most popular works here.
This is a finishing speech by the host, followed by everyone holding hands and singing Auld Lang Syne.
Burns Night truly is a special affair that’s fun for everyone. If you want to embrace the Scottish culture today but don’t want to go as far as hosting your own supper there should be plenty of events near you to celebrate. Alternatively, tune into ‘A Burn’s Supper’ on BBC Radio 4 today at 4:30pm to hear some famous Burns poetry. If music is more your thing, check out BBC Radio 6 ‘Lang May your Rum Reek’ for three hours of great Scottish music and artists, or check out this playlist full of Scottish favourites.