Burns Night is celebrated in Scotland and beyond on or around 25th January every year.
It’s a night to commemorate the life of the famous poet Robert Burns, commonly known as ‘Rabbie Burns’, and is the date of his birthday in 1759. His best known work is Auld Lang Syne – you may have heard it or even sung it on the turn of the New Year. Burns Night is not a public holiday.
So what do the traditional celebrations look like? It’s all about the supper which consists of traditional Scottish fare and plenty of whisky for toasting. A formal Burns Night Supper will begin with the host welcoming guests and saying the Selkrik Grace:
"Some hae meat and cannot eat.
Some cannot eat that want it:
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit."
Then, the Parade of the Haggis follows – guests stand and clap with the sound of the bagpipes to welcome the haggis.
Wait, what is haggis? The short answer is a type of sausage prepared in a sheep’s stomach. However making a haggis can be tricky as it contains sheep’s heart, liver and lungs, which is minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, stock and a selection of spices.
Why haggis? In Rabbie Burns’ poem ‘Address to a Haggis’ he describes haggis as the “great chieftain o’ the puddin-‘race”. This is often recited before the haggis is cut:
“His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Whilst the haggis is the star of the show it is served with classic side dishes such as mashed neeps and tatties (turnips or swedes and potatoes) and Cock-a-Leekie soup (chicken and leek soup). And for dessert, Cranachan (whipped cream mixed with raspberries and served with sweet oat wafers).
So what do you have if you don’t fancy haggis? Today there are plenty of alternatives. Haggis made without meat or Cullen Skink (a seafood soup dish) are popular choices.
Singing, dancing and toasts play a part in the celebrations and speeches are often made in praise of Rabbie Burns as well as a traditional “Toast to the Lassies” where a male guest gives thanks to the women in his life.
Is there a dress code? Traditionally participants will don tartan and some men may choose to wear kilts.
Planning to celebrate Burns Night at home this year? We’ve made Burns Night celebrations easy with our fully prepared take away menus featuring all of the traditional Scottish dishes. Simply order and collect yours at a time which suits you! For more details visit your chosen hotel’s take away page here.