The 25th January is a anual celebratory tribute to the life, works and spirit of the greatest Scottish poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796).
In his honor, the people of Scotland gather together for a traditional Scottish meal, drink Scotch whisky and reminisce Robert Burns’ poems etc.
Every Burns Supper has its own special form and flavour, though there are probably more similarities than differences among these gastro-literary affairs. Individual tastes and talents will determine the character of your Burns Supper. Some celebrants may contribute the composition of original songs or poems; some may excel at giving toasts or reciting verse; while others may be captivating storytellers. A particular group of celebrants will, over time, develop a unique group character which will distinguish their Burns Supper celebration from every other.
The first supper was held in memoriam at Burns Cottage by Robert Burns’ friends on 21 July 1801, the fifth anniversary of his death, and have been a regular occurrence ever since. The first still extant Burns club was founded in Greenock in 1801 by merchants born in Ayrshire, some of whom had known Burns. They held the first Burns supper on what they thought was his birthday, 29 January 1802, but in 1803 they discovered in Ayr parish records that his date of birth was 25 January 1759. Since then, suppers have been held on or about 25 January.
Order of the supper
- Piping of the guests – A Piper usually greets the guests on arrival whilst Scottish music plays in the background.
- Hosts welcoming speech – The host will begin the night with an opening speak. Once everyone is seated, he will state the reason for the gathering and say grace, usually using the Selkirk Grace, a well-known thanksgiving said before meals, using the Scots language.
Some hae meat ancanna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.
- Piping of the Haggis – Everyone stands whilst the Haggis is brought in, usually by the cook, whilst the piper plays the bagpipes. The host or a guest will then recites the address to the Haggis.
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 arm
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,
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,
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!
- Supper – At the end of the poem, a Scotch whisky toast will be proposed to the Haggis, this is usually served with mashed potatoes and mashed turnips (English swede).
- Immortal memory – Once all food has been eaten, the host will make a speech remembering some aspects of Burns’ life and poetry. A toast in memory of Burns then follows.
- Address to the lassies – A short speech given by a male guest thanking the women for the preparation of the meal. A toast to the womens health then follows.
- Reply to the laddies – A female guest will give her views on men and reply to any specific points raised by the previous speaker. This is normally amusing and not offensive.
- Works by Burns – After all the speaches, songs will be sang and peoms will be spoken by the guests.
- Closing – Finally the host will call on one of the guests to give the vote of thanks, after which everyone is asked to stand, join hands, and sing Auld Lang Syne bringing the evening to an end.
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