20/01/2014
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How to celebrate Burns Night

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Your guide to creating the perfect Burns Night celebration.

Burns Night is an annual event celebrating the life of Scottish poet Robert Burns and is celebrated across Scotland and in Scottish communities around the world on 25 January, the day that Burns was born.

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A Burns Night celebration can have many different elements and each community has its own traditions - this guide will help you to plan a traditional Burns Night, to which you can add your own touches.

Running order of a Burns Night supper

  • Piping in the guests - to bapgipe or traditional music
  • Reciting of the Selkirk Grace (see below)
  • Piping in the haggis - guests stand to welcome the haggis to the table!
  • Toast to the haggis - honouring the most important ingredient of the meal
  • Burns Night meal (see below)
  • The 'immortal memory' - an account of the life of Robbie Burns, followed by Burns's songs and poems
  • Toast to the lassies - a traditional thank you to the women involved in the preparations (and a lighthearted homage to Burns's love of women)
  • Finale with Auld Lang Syne

 

A Burns Supper can be as formal or as informal as suits the occasion and guests are traditionally invited to take their turn in reciting Burns poems or songs during the evening.

The Selkirk Grace

This is recited after the guests have entered the room and are seated at the table and before the haggis is piped to the table.

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.

Traditional menu for a Burns Night Supper

Starter: Cock a Leekie Soup

Main course: Haggis with neeps and tatties (turnips and mashed potato)

Dessert: Clootie dumpling or cranachan (a traditional dessert of oats, cream, whisky and raspberries)

Drink: Scotch whisky

 

The immortal memory

The immortal memory is the centrepiece of the evening and equivalent to a wedding dinner speech - the denoted speaker gives a talk on the life of Robert Burns, in anticipation of the songs and poems to come. Although the speech often touches on the highs and lows of Burns's life, it should include a celebration of his home country of Scotland, his literary genius and his love of all things Scottish.

Read about places associated with the life of Robert Burns.

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