Every year on the 25th January, Scotland honours its National Bard (or Poet), Robert Burns, also known as Rabbie Burns. He is celebrated worldwide through Burns Night with those partaking usually enjoying it with Scotch whisky on hand…Burns himself certainly seems to have enjoyed a drink or two in his time…
A Burns Night typically combines haggis, scotch whisky and poetry with lots of fun and laughter. It also marks the anniversary of Robert Burns’ birth on 25th January. The first Burns supper was held in July 1801 when nine of Burns’ close friends got together to mark the fifth anniversary of their friend’s death at Burns Cottage in Alloway, Scotland (pictures below from when I visited it).
A Burns Night Supper typically consists of the following (in order):
To start – everyone gathers, the host says a few words, everyone sits and the Selkirk Grace is said. This is an important prayer that is read to usher in the meal and this is the version recited in Scots:
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.
The meal – the starter is served, the haggis (pictured below) is piped in and the host performs Address to a Haggis.
Note that a copy of the text for Address to a Haggis is available at the end of this blog post for reference.
Everyone toasts the haggis with a healthy measure of scotch whisky on cue when the haggis is cut for the first time – then the main meal is served, followed by dessert.
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 (video above), followed by a Reply to the Toast to the Lassies, before the final Burns recital is performed. Needless to say, every toast drink is…..Scotch whisky!
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!’.
For Reference if interested to know more about Robert Burns and/or Burns Night celebrations:
- VisitScotland – Celebrating Burns Night
- BBC Good Food – How to throw a Burns Night Supper
- BBC – Burns Night
- Inside the Cask – Happy Burns Night! (Whisky cocktail)
- Robert Burns Live – Christopher Tait (Scotland’s leading Robert Burns’ performer) – see below his performance of ‘Tam O’Shanter’
The Address to the Haggis (part of the Burns Night) – see below
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill, Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
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,
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive: Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Is there that owre his French ragout, Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash, As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed, The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.
Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care, And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis