January 25th, 2016, is Robbie Burns Day! This celebration of the life and works of Scottish poet Robert Burns is an important holiday to Scottish expats living abroad. Burns Suppers incorporate nearly every Scottish tradition one can think of, from highland dancing to haggis to bagpipes to shortbread. Read on to find out more about this important Scottish holiday!
About Robert Burns
You likely know at least one poem by Scots poet Robert Burns, as he is the author of famous New Year’s (and Hogmanay) poem and song “Auld Lang Syne”. Also authored many other famous poems and songs in the Scots dialect, including the Burns Supper staple “Address to a Haggis”.
Burns Suppers are held on or near the date of the poet’s birthday, January 25th. They vary regionally, or by formality, but most Suppers have the same basic outline:
After the guests arrive (often greeted by bagpipe music) the host gives a speech that is followed by the Selkirk Grace:
Some hae meat an
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.
Then, supper begins with a soup course, followed by the piping in of the haggis. The haggis, a savoury pudding containing onions, oatmeal, suet, spices, salt, and sheep’s organs encased in the sheep’s stomach, is brought in on a large platter and accompanied by yet more bagpipe music. Then the host of the evening will recite Burns’ famous “Address to a 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 poem itself goes on for several more verses, and can be read in its entirety with translations of certain words on its Wikipedia page.)
The evening continues with feasting on the haggis, toasts to the lasses and laddies, and further readings of Burns’ work. Afterwards, all participants will join hands to sing Auld Lang Syne, bringing the evening to a song-filled end.