As a commemoration for the life and works of Robert Burns, Scotland’s most celebrated poet, January 25th holds a special place in the hearts of Scots across the globe. For over two centuries patriotic friends and family have enjoyed informal and formal gatherings for a night of Celtic tradition.
A keen social commentator, Robert Burns was unprecedented in his approach to poetry, writing with outstanding verve and passion about many heartfelt topics such as universal brotherhood, love and the human condition. To this day, Burns’ words are still world-renowned as timeless classics.
So how did Burns Night
begin as a tradition? Five years after his death, a group of Burns’ friends got together to reminisce about his life and his works. The tradition became established year-on-year and on January 25th, Burns’ birthday, Scottish people around the world toast the man that many suggest put Scotland on the map.
A traditional Burns Night supper is as follows:
1. A piper will welcome guests with traditional Scottish music until all are seated, at which point applause is due for the piper.
2. At formal celebrations a short but important prayer is read before eating. The Selkirk Grace, known as Burns’s Grace, is usually recited in Scots.
3. The meal’s star attraction is usually the Haggis, which is delivered into the room on a silver platter to the sound of another bagpipe procession.
4. The nominated reader then addresses the haggis with a fiery rendition of ‘To a Haggis’ before cutting open the haggis along its length, ensuring some of the tasty entrails spill out for full effect!
5. The audience then toasts the haggis and enjoys the Scottish fare with some suitable background music.
A typical Burns Night meal
Traditional cock-a-leekie soup
Haggis, neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes)
Clootie Dumpling (traditional pudding prepared in a linen cloth or cloot) or Typsy Laird (a typically Scottish sherry trifle)
Entertainment usually follows immediately after the meal with singers and musicians stepping forward to perform some of Burns’ many songs and poems. The festivities are then closed with guests invited to belt out a heart-warming rendition of Auld Lang Syne.
If you are thinking of planning a rather less formal family gathering on Burns Night then there are plenty of ideas to entertain both young and old.
There are printable Robert Burns worksheets for kids to decorate the man himself, as well as patriotic Scottish flags, quotes and printable poems for friends and family to read at the table.
You could even go the whole hog and dress up in typically Scottish fancy dress. Our own range of patriotic outfits includes a Scots kilt and hat
and an authentic tartan Tam ‘O’ Shanter
, perfect for a themed Burns Night.
January 25th is one of the most important nights of the Scottish calendar. As J.S. Blackie once said; "When Scotland forgets Burns, then history will forget Scotland."