Beginners Guide to Hosting Your Own Burns Night
Hosting a Burns Night Supper is a wonderful way to celebrate the life and poetry of Robert Burns, the famous Scottish poet. Burns Night is typically held on or around January 25th, the poet’s birthday. Here’s a beginner’s guide to hosting your very own Burns Night Supper:
Gather friends and family together at your chosen venue, whether it’s your home or a communal space. Decorate with Scottish flags, tartan tablecloths, and candles to create a warm and inviting atmosphere. Encourage guests to wear something Scottish whether that be traditional kilts, tartan scarves, or sashes. Less formal options could be a Scottish sports shirt or your ENU hoodie!
The centrepiece of the meal is the traditional haggis. Not a meat eater? Many stores now have vegetarian and vegan alternatives. Haggis is traditionally served with neeps and tatties (mashed turnips and potatoes). BBC Food provides a guide to Burns Night Food. Serve Scottish whisky for toasts (non-alcoholic whisky is now available too, or you could opt for Irn-Bru!)
The Procession and Address to the Haggis
This is a key part of the evening. Traditionally, a piper plays during the procession of the haggis to add to the ceremonial atmosphere. Not everyone knows a bagpipe player, so you can also find some music on YouTube, Spotify, or Tidal. The host or a chosen guest then recites or reads Burns’ famous poem, “Address to a Haggis,” before cutting into the haggis and serving.
Begin with a welcoming toast to the guests, followed by a toast to the immortal memory of Robert Burns. Other traditional toasts include the Lassies (a toast to women) and the Reply to the Lassies.
Poetry and Songs
Incorporate readings of Burns’ poetry throughout the evening. “Tam o’ Shanter” and “A Red, Red Rose” are popular choices. Have someone lead the group in singing Burns’ songs like “Auld Lang Syne.” You can find a list of his works available on Library Search.
Consider playing music, particularly Scottish folk music (Spotify and YouTube have several pre-made playlists) or organise a quiz or trivia game related to Scottish culture or Robert Burns.
Thank You and Farewell
End the evening with a thank you to your guests and a farewell toast. Express your appreciation for their company and participation in the celebration. Remember, the key to a successful Burns Night Supper is to create a warm and festive atmosphere that honours the spirit of Robert Burns and Scottish culture. Enjoy the evening!
Read about Robert Burns in our article on his life “Burns Night’