Burns Suppers have been an annual Scottish tradition since 1801, when a group of Burns’ friends hosted a commemorative dinner five years after his death. Suppers are held on January 25th, the anniversary of the Bard’s birthday, and traditionally combine Scottish food, speeches, poetry and songs. It is estimated that in Scotland alone thousands of Burns Suppers are hosted every January, along with many more worldwide. In 2014, for the third year running, Big Burns Supper will be the biggest of all of these celebrations.
Why not host your own Burns Supper this year, with the help of our Six Step Burns Supper Guide.
What you will need:
• Friends & Family
• A Table
Step One – The Menu
For the most authentic Burns night celebration, the supper itself usually features three courses of traditional Scottish food. Often this will be Cullen Skink, followed by Haggis, and Crannachan for dessert. The Haggis is the main course and the star of the event, accompanied by neeps and tatties (turnip & potatoes). The menu can be tailored to suit children’s or vegetarian options.
Step Two – The Guests’ Arrival
The arrival of guests is accompanied by bagpipes. If you don’t know a piper of your own, Scottish music can be found on CD or online. (youtube/soundcloud link here?) It is customary for guests to dress in tartan for the occasion.
Step Three – The Supper Begins
Once the guests are seated, the celebrations are declared open by the host. A short welcome prayer, The Selkirk Grace, is read- which can be printed here (link to Selkirk Grace?) and the first course is served.
Step Four – The Haggis
The Haggis enters on a silver platter, in a procession of the chef, the piper, the host who will address the haggis, and often a whisky-bearer. Guests are upstanding and clap in time to the music as the haggis is brought to the table. The host offers a fluent and rousing rendition Burns’ famous ‘Address to a Haggis’, which can be printed here. (link)
The haggis is ceremonially sliced along its length at the pinnacle of the Address. (Cue: ‘His knife see rustic Labour dight’) At the culmination of the recital guests toast to the haggis with a dram of whisky. It is then served with neeps and tatties and followed by dessert, then cheese and oatcakes.
Step Five – Recitations and Revelry
The meal is usually followed by performances of Burns songs and poetry. Celebrations can also include speeches and dancing. Commonly performed Burns works include: Tam o’Shanter, Holy Willie’s Prayer, To a Louse, Address to the Unco Guid, Ae Fond Kiss, My Luve is like a Red Red Rose
Step Six – Toasts
A ‘Toast to the Lasses’ is proposed, featuring reference to Burns works and often pertaining to ladies present at the supper. This is followed by a response from the ladies. The host thanks guests for their contributions to the festivities, and performs the toast to the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns.
Auld Lang Syne is traditionally belted out to draw the evening to a close.
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