A very poignant date in the Scottish calender is 25th January… Burn’s Night. Burn’s night is the birthday of arguably Scotland’s most famous poet and lyricist. On this night we celebrate the life and works of Robert Burn’s or as he is referred to locally in Scotland ‘Rabbie’. Known globally for the beautiful ‘auld lang syne’ Rabbie Burns is one of Scotland’s most credited individuals, so it is only fitting that we celebrate him with a night of poetry, dancing, dining and a few whiskeys!
Burn’s supper can consist of a family gathering or a formal organised event. For the big Burn’s events there are a range of traditions which must be included. At the start of the evening a piper will normally play as the guests arrive. After guests have arrived the host or organiser will welcome and introduce the guests and the evening’s entertainment.
Afterward a prayer known as The Selkirk Grace is read thanking God for the food we are about to receive.
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.
This is then proceeded with Piping in the Haggis. Haggis is brought to the room, and at this stage guests would normally stand. Haggis is introduced to the room on a silver platter by the chef, the piper and the person who will address the Haggis. When the haggis is placed on the table the piper will stop and guests will once again be seated.
Then comes the important prospect of ‘Addressing the Haggis’. A tradition in which one individual will recite ‘To a Haggis’ and cut the haggis with a knife which is met by applause from the guests. The host will then raise a glass to toast the haggis and will prompt the audience to join in by raising a glass and shouting, ‘The haggis!’
Now for the best part the traditional Burn’s supper which often consists of cock a leekie soup as a starter and haggis neaps and tatties for the main course. Or for those out with Scotland this translates as haggis mashes potatoes and turnips. Sweets often include Clootie Dumpling or a Scottish sherry trifle and the meal is finished with tea coffee and cheese boards. All of which is of course n true Scottish style accompanied by lots of wine, beer and whisky!
It is now time for the first entertainer who often recites Burn’s poems or songs, most popularly Tam o’ Shanter,
Holy Willie’s Prayer, or My Luve is Like a Red Red Rose.
It is then time for the host of the evening to deliver a speech on the life of Robert Burns including his life and work to which the speaker concludes with a toast: To the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns! This is then proceeded with the second entertainment where more of Burn’s work will be performed.
Then for the next toast (anything to raise a glass in Scotland!) Now it’s time for a Toast to the Lassies or to those who aren’t familiar with our colloquial Scottish tongue a toast to the ladies. This toast praises the role of women in the world today and the toast is concluded by the performer raising his glass to the room and announcing To the Lassies!
A final performance of Burn’s work is given before the ladies have their chance to respond to the gentleman’s toast to the lassies. The toast to the lassies and the ladies response to this are amongst the most humorous events that take place in the night.
The host of the evening now addresses the room and thanks everyone for their contribution to the evening and closes the proceedings by inviting guests to cross arms, join hands, stand up and sing or (perhaps slur) the classic Auld Lang Syne. So there you have it, a traditional Burn’s Supper! If you get the chance to attend it is a fantastic night or alternatively why not consider hosting your own! If you decide to go all out don’t forget to call Houston’s and get your kilt to wear!
Let us know if this has been helpful, and let us know where you will be celebrating Burn’s night!
From all at Houston’s, enjoy the Haggis!