The 25th of January is Burns night. Every year on this date, the work and legacy of the famous Scottish poet Robert is celebrated. ‘The Bard of Ayrshire’, or just ‘The Bard’ is honoured with poems, food, whisky, ceilidhs and pipers. So let’s raise our whiskeys to Rabbie Burns and say a Selkirk grace to his heritage.
Our Scottish readers will already be familiar with this tradition. But for our readers not based in Bonnie Scotland, we will give you a quick run-through of what one might expect at a Burns Supper. Should you find yourself in Scotland on the 25th, why not join in the festivities and see for yourself? The celebrations are in all the major Scottish cities, and seeing is believing!
Burns night suppers come in both the informal and very formal variety: from a dinner amongst friends to dinner at Highgrove, the country home of Prince Charles. Anyone prepared to fork over £95 can consider themselves cordially invited to this prestigious event.
So what exactly is going to happen? Upon entering the venue, you will be ‘piped in’, with pipers playing songs while the guests find their seats. Once everyone is seated, the Chairman of the event will say a few words. Before any food is eaten, the Selkirk grace is usually recited.
What will be the main course? Why, haggis with neeps and tatties of course! If you thought the pipers were done, you’re in for a treat (or if, like me, you hate bagpipes, brace yourself) because another round of bagpipes will announce the entry of the haggis, usually on a silver plate. Now follows another poem, an ode to the haggis if you will, during which the reader cuts the haggis open on cue.
Now raise your whiskey (of which you will have had plenty by now) and toast the haggis, by shouting a hearty: “To the haggis!”
The entertainment of the evening will usually be poems by Burns or songs inspired by such crackers as “My Luv is Like a Red, Red Rose”, “John Anderson, My Jo” and “Ae Fond Kiss”. The Immortal Memory is also part of the entertainment: a speaker will talk about the legacy of Robert Burns, and how this has affected his or her life.
The necessary comic relief is provided in the form of the Toast to the Lassies, or, a guy telling us what he thinks of women. The favour is usually promptly returned via a Toast to the Lads.
As the evening draws to a close, it is time to join hands to sing “Auld Lang Syne”, and depending on how drunk the company is at this time, it is either a soulful and heartfelt rendition or a drunken revelry.
So join us in a toast to The Bard, on his birthday. May this Burns night be great and may we experience many more to come!