How to celebrate Burns night like the Scottish do

Tuesday 21 April 2020

Pour the whisky, pop the haggis in the oven, and grab some Scottish poetry: Burns Night (25 January every year) is upon us! Here's how to celebrate it like a true Scotsman...

How to throw a Burns Night Supper

People in a Scottish Highlands pub

1. To start: Everyone gathers, the host says a few words, everyone sits and the Selkirk Grace is said.

2. The meal: The starter is served, perhaps cock-a-leekie, the haggis is piped in, the host performs Address to a Haggis, everyone toasts the haggis and the main meal is served, followed by dessert, often Cranachan.

3. After the meal: The first Burns recital is performed, the Immortal Memory (the main tribute speech to Burns) is given, the second Burns recital is performed, then there’s a Toast to the Lassies, followed by a Reply to the Toast to the Lassies, before the final Burns recital is performed.

4. To end the night: The host gives a vote of thanks, everyone stands and sings Auld Lang Syne, crossing their arms and joining hands at the line ‘And there's a hand, my trusty fere!’.

In truth, you can follow as much or as little of this running order as you like.  You can even make your own additions – hold a quiz, add a ceilidh, include a treasure hunt – the most important thing is that everyone gets in the spirit and has a great night. So go ahead and feel free to put your own unique twist on the night!



Who was Robert Burns?

Robert Burns was born on 25 January 1759 in Alloway in Ayrshire and penned his first poem at 15. In his personal life, Burns dedicated hundreds of  lines of verse to women and went on to father 12 children, 9 to his wife Jean Armour. For all his fame, Burns never forgot his humble roots. His love for farming stayed with him throughout his life and his writing often dealt with issues affecting the poorer classes, notably highlighting the need for greater social equality. Despite his short life (he died at 37) Burns left a huge catalogue of poetry and songs that have been poured over, enjoyed, and spoken aloud for more than 200 years!

The first Burns supper was held in 1801 when 9 of Burns’ close friends got together to mark the anniversary of their friend’s death. Taking place at Burns Cottage in Alloway, the night included a tasty meal of haggis, performances of Burns’ work and a speech in honour of the great bard (now known as the Immortal Memory). The night was such a resounding success they decided to hold it again but this time in honour of Burns’ birthday and the tradition has been celebrated every year since!

Master a few Burns quotes to wow your guests

Scots in kilts by the fire

Just in case you aren't too familiar with any of Burns' poems, here's a quick go-to for some of his classic lines!

‘There is no such uncertainty as a sure thing.’

‘The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, Gang aft agley.’

‘But to see her was to love her, Love but her, and love forever.’

In Britain for Burns Night? Take part in these top Burns events

Big Burns Supper, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland
The Big Burns Supper is the world’s biggest Burns Night celebration, taking place over 10 days. Highlights include the return of Le Haggis - an Interactive Haggis Hunt, and performances from more than 40 international artists.

Burns Unbound, Edinburgh, Scotland
Celebrate the poetry and legacy of Robert Burns at the National Museum of Scotland with a packed programme of creative activities and performances at Burns Unbound. Learn to ceilidh dance, get crafty and discover some braw Burns poetry!

Alloway 1759, Ayrshire, Scotland
Celebrate the bard’s birthday in his birthplace of Alloway with a special programme of events taking place around Burns Cottage and surrounding landmarks at Alloway 1759 throughout January. Journey into Burns Alicht, a sparkling Burns birthplace tour featuring special illuminations bringing landmarks to life. And don't miss the World Haggis Hurling Championships!


For recipe inspiration, ideas on how to perfect your toast, plus more on the main man himself, check out VisitScotland’s handy Burns Night Guide

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