What Happens On Burns Night?

When is Burns Night? What happens during the supper? What is the Burns Address? All your questions AND MORE answered here!

Robert Burns Day (or Burns Night) is held, traditionally, on January 25th every year to celebrate the birthday of Scotland’s ‘national poet’.

As well as being recognised as one of the greatest poets of all time, he is also a Scottish hero because he used his works to draw attention to class inequalities, poverty and other social injustices.

Burns won a public vote to become ‘The Greatest Scot’ of all time. His influence was felt around the world, with monuments in his honour erected in Canada and America. The most famous, however, is located in Leith in Edinburgh, Scotland.

So now you know a little more about the man which the day is based around, what about that iconic culinary dish, the haggis.

So why haggis?

This links back to ‘Address to a Haggis’, a poem written by Burns and since then the two have been forever associated.

While many families will simply sit down to the traditional ‘haggis, neeps (swede) and tatties (mashed potato)’ – If you want to have a more traditional Burns Night supper then there is a little more ceremony involved.

Traditional Ceremony:

To begin with, a piper will play in the guests to the dining room. The host of the meal will welcome their guests before the first course of soup or broth is served. Once the soup course is finished the piper will once again pick up his bagpipes and ‘play in’ the haggis as it is brought into the room. The host will then perform the ‘Burns address’.

Address to a Haggis by Robert Burns

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 wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my airm.

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 dicht,
An’ cut you up wi’ ready slicht,
Trenching your gushing entrails bricht,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sicht,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmaist! on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve,
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
“Bethankit” hums.

Is there that o’re 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 ower 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 wallie nieve a blade,
He’ll mak it whistle;
An’ legs an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,
Like taps o’ thristle.

Ye Pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinkin ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer,
Gie her a haggis!

After the poem is completed, the haggis is cut and a toast is made. After the meal, various toasts and poem readings follow, before the ceremony closes with all the guests join hands and sing Auld Lang Syne.

Are you having a Burns Night supper? Share your photos in the comments.

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