Every year on January 25th, Scots around the world participate in a magnificent feast called a “Burns Supper,” celebrating the life and poetry of the nation’s poet, Robert Burns, on his birthday. The bard was born on January 25, 1759, 262 years ago. This year, virtual celebrations can be found everywhere you look, making it easier than ever before to celebrate Burns at home (Burns Night In, if you will).
Robert Burns is a cultural icon in Scotland and among the Scottish diaspora around the world. He is also regarded as a pioneer of the Romantic movement, and after his death he became a great source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism. Did you know there are more statues dedicated to Robert Burns than any other secular figure in the world?
Many would recognize the Burns poem “Auld Lang Syne,” which is sung across the globe to ring in the New Year. Other popular Burns poems include, “A Red, Red Rose,” “Tam O’Shanter,” and “A Mans a Man for A’ That.”
If you would like to celebrate the the life of Robert Burns and host your own Burns Supper, you can find a great how-to guide here and recipes here. While this year’s Burns Supper may look different due to the pandemic, you can still gather with friends virtually, eat a meal together, and take turns reciting your favorite Burns poems or songs. You can even learn a few traditional Scottish dances virtually thanks to our friends at the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, Boston Branch, who are hosting an evening of dance with a Burns Night theme on Monday, January 25, 2021 from 8:00 – 9:00 p.m. EST. Send an inquiry note to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a typical year, a Burns Supper usually takes the following format:
- To begin, the guests are piped into the venue, followed by the “Selkirk Grace.”
- Next, the haggis is piped in and the host performs “Address to a Haggis.” As the poem wraps, everyone toasts to the haggis and the main meal is served, followed by dessert. If you don’t have access to haggis, you can serve lamb, steak pie, or a vegetarian alternative.
- After the meal, the host typically recites a well known Burns poem, followed by the “Immortal Memory,” the main tribute speech to Burns. Next up is a tongue in cheek speech written in advance called the “Toast to the Lassies,” followed by a similarly jokey retort, “Reply to the Toast to the Lassies.” After the meal and toasts is a Ceilidh, a series of Scottish dances.
- To close the Burns Supper, give thanks to all who attended and participated, and together sing “Auld Lang Syne.”
Cheers to Robert Burns! Please let us know how you plan to celebrate in the comments!