Everything you need to know about Burns Night

January 25, 2019

This year’s Burns Night falls on what would have been Robert Burn’s 259th birthday. Burns Suppers have evolved into an institution of Scottish life and an evening to celebrate the life and works of the national Bard but they can vary from informal gatherings to much more formal dinners full of pomp and circumstance. But how did they start and why?

Who was Robert Burns?
Robert “Rabbie” Burns was a Scottish poet and lyricist from the 1700’s, widely regarded as the National Poet of Scotland. He was born in Alloway, Ayr on January 25, 1759 and before his death in 1796 he had written more than 550 poems and songs including the very famous Auld Lang Syne.

When did Burns Supper begin?
In July 1801, several of Burns’ closest friends got together to mark the fifth anniversary of their friend’s death. It took place at Burns Cottage in Alloway, the former poet’s home town. The evening included a meal of haggis, performances of Burns’ work and a speech in his honour beginning the tradition.

What happens at a Burns Supper?
Burns Night is celebrated annually in Scotland on or around 25th January and much the same as the very first supper in 1801. Everyone enjoys a traditional feast of haggis, neeps and tatties rounded off with several drams of whisky, some of Burns’ poems and songs are recited including Auld Lang Syne (also sung on New Year’s Eve) and tributes made to the great poet. A more formal Burns Night calls for a piper to welcome guests and a short but important prayer is read to usher in the meal – the Selkirk Grace, which is also known as Burns’s Grace at Kirkcudbright. It is usually recited in Scots.

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.

Traditionally the haggis is piped in, carried on a silver platter and accompanied by a procession comprising the chef, the piper and the person who will ‘Address the Haggis’. During this procession, guests clap in time to the music until the haggis reaches its destination at the table. The music stops and everyone is seated in anticipation of a rendition of ‘Address to a Haggis’ (a poem written by Burns to celebrate his appreciation of haggis) then on cue, the haggis is cut with the ceremonial knife before guests toast the haggis. There are recitals of Burn’s poetry and a traditional toast to the lassies with an amusing response as well as entertainment and dancing into the wee hours.

What is haggis, neeps and tatties?
Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish containing sheep’s offal (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal’s stomach. Nowadays haggis tends to be simmered in a casing rather than the stomach and versions can be found to accommodate vegetarian and gluten-free supper guests. Haggis is traditionally served with neeps (mashed turnips and swede) and tatties (mashed potatoes).

If you haven’t made plans, come and join us at Seasons on Friday 25th January. We will be serving our fabulous a la carte menu and market menu featuring traditional Burns Night classics with a special Seasons flair. Call us on 01334 460890 to make a reservation or email seasons@rufflets.co.uk

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