Burns Night - the history and traditions

06 January 2021
Join people around the world in a global celebration of Burns Night - honouring the poet Robert Burns with a Burns Supper.

Robert Burns, often affectionally known as Rabbie Burns, was born in Alloway on 25 January 1759. Each year, communities around the world with a Scottish connection (and some with none!) mark Burns Night with songs, dancing, poetry and a Burns Supper.

More than 250 years after his death, the work of Scotland's national bard lives on through his stories, poetry and songs, including:

  • Auld Lang Syne
  • Scots Wha Hae
  • Tam O'Shanter
  • Ae Fond Kiss
  • To A Mouse

Read on to find out what Burns night is all about, its traditions, history and how it was celebrated in years gone by.

What is Burns Night?

Burns Night is an annual celebration held on or around 25 January, the birthday of Robert Burns. At its centrepiece is a Burns Supper which typically includes toasts, the reading of the poem Address To A Haggis and traditional food.

Communities around the world have put their own spin on the celebrations, with gatherings reflecting both Scottish traditions and those of the host country.

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What food is eaten at a Burns Supper?

A traditional Burns Supper is made up of several elements, as you can see in How to celebrate Burns Night at home. Typical foods include:

  • Cock a Leekie Soup
  • Haggis with neeps and tatties
  • Clootie dumpling or cranachan
  • Scotch whisky

Memories of a special Burns Supper

Discover the fun and excitement of a Burns Supper in the 1970s as Janet Traill shares some special memories.

Sites connected with the life of Robert Burns

If you'd like to find out more about the life of Robert Burns and the places he knew, there are several museums dedicated to his life and work, and you can also explore towns and villages with Burns connections. Find out where to explore Robert Burns sites.


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