Lighting up the dark days of winter, Burns Night is a whole-hearted celebration of Scottish culture. This annual event on 25th January is a deep-rooted tradition in the northern lands, hosted in honour of Scotland’s most famous bard, Robert Burns.
Whether you’re of Scottish heritage, a fan of Burns’ work, or simply want an excuse to enjoy a night with friends, you too can enjoy the traditional festivities of Burns Night at home.
What is Burns Night?
Burns night is held every year on 25h January to celebrate the life and works of the famous Scottish poet, Robert Burns. The evening is spent indulging in food, drink and tradition including reciting Burns’ poetry to ensure his creative works may never be forgotten.
A literary genius of the 18th century, known for his writings on love, friendship and Scottish pride, Burns is a national hero. His words evoke passion in those that hear them and are recited every year to be passed on to the next generation.
Since the first celebration was held in 1801, the night has become a much-anticipated event. It’s a poignant occasion for Scots to remember the man who put their culture so beautifully into words.
The traditional itinerary
While each celebration can differ, many like to stick to tradition. If you’re thinking of hosting your own Burns supper, we recommend following this itinerary:
- To begin the evening, gather everyone with words of welcome, before reciting the Selkirk Grace
- Feast like a true highlander on three sumptuous courses. Stick with the norm or put your own spin on what you serve
- Once everyone is fed and watered, seat yourselves on a traditional sofa to begin the recitals
As the night comes to an end, give a final toast of gratitude before singing Auld Lang Syne altogether
Food to serve at Burns supper
The first dish to the table is usually cock-a-leekie soup . This is a simple dish to make, using chicken and vegetables, and can be stored in your freezer to serve again at a later date.
As could be expected, the Burns supper centres around Scotland’s most famous dish: haggis. A combination of sheep offal, suet and oatmeal, haggis is a hearty meal accompanied by mashed neeps (swedes) and tatties (potatoes) – sometimes stacked for serving – that’s perfect for beating the winter chill.
Traditionally served on a silver platter to the sound of bagpipes, today many settle for playing traditional Scottish music on their speakers as the haggis is brought to the table.
After serving the haggis, the sweet course usually consists of sweet clootie dumplings. This fruit-spice suet pudding is a famous addition to any Scottish gathering, and is named for the cloth it is cooked in. If these don’t tickle your fancy, why not lay out a tasty cheese board?
Once everyone has finished the traditional feast, let your guests slump down onto an appropriately traditional sofa, such as the luxurious Maya and Westwood ranges. Here they can sip on a dram of whisky or a soft drink option of your choosing whilst listening to the anticipated recitals.
The songs to be sung
A traditional Burns night celebration starts with the recital of some of the poet’s most famous songs. Gather everyone together to hear the passionate words of poems such as My Love is Like a Red Red Rose or Ae Fond Kiss, and Then We Sever.
The keynote speaker will then deliver the spell-binding speech Immortal Memory, which puts into words the literary genius and Scottish pride of Robert Burns. According to tradition, this is followed by a second recital of your choosing.
The men will then perform a Toast to the Lassies to celebrate women’s role in the world, which is echoed by the appropriately named Reply to the Toast to the Lassies, before a final recital of poetry.
Finishing the night in true Scottish fashion
To finish the festivities, the host will toast their guests and Robert Burns. Before waving your guests goodbye, gather everyone to sing the famous song, Auld Lang Syne, joining arms as one.
No matter your reasons for celebrating Burns Night, it’s the perfect opportunity to enjoy a cosy evening with loved ones on a traditional sofa to comfort you through the last days of winter. Stick to tradition or make it your own – spending time with those you hold close is what Burns Night is all about.