Our Guide to Throwing a Burns Supper
January the 25th is host to one of the biggest nights in the Scottish Calendar - Burns Night. Marking the birth of the National Bard Robert Burns and celebrating all that is wonderful about Scotland, a traditional Burn's Supper is hosted where poems are read in homage to Scotland's most prolific writers, Robert Burns.
The History of a Burns Supper
Born on the 25th of January 1759 in Ayrshire, Rabbie Burns is a national poet of Scotland who wrote lyrics and poetry in the Scots language. In 1796, Burns died of ill health and 5 years later, a group of nine friends and patrons got together to celebrate his life on his birthday. The first Burns Supper was held in his family home, Burns Cottage in Alloway. The organiser of this Supper, Rev'd Hamilton Paul, kept notes of the occasion, and the familiar Burns Supper checklist started taking shape.
Setting the Scene
Whether hosting for a large audience or a small circle of close friends, a key part of any social dinner party is setting the scene through tableware. Be sure to set your table with care and create an inviting and comfortable atmosphere. We love the idea of a tasteful table runner and napkins, add a little dash of tartan to your setting with our Made to Measure Home & Interiors range on our website.
Although it is tradition to Pipe in the Haggis before it is eaten as the main course of your meal, it is not vital for your Burn's Supper! Instead, create the ideal Scottish atmosphere with a playlist of your favourite Scottish musicians.
Traditionally speaking, Scottish Highland Dress would be worn to a formal Burns Supper. Men will usually adorn their families tartan with the women opting for their Tartan dresses or skirts and in some cases a Tartan Sash to match that of their kilted partner. Interestingly enough, as a Lowlander Burns would not have worn a kilt himself. It would have been illegal for him to wear a kilt under the Dress Act of 1746. Though abolished in 1782, kilts didn't become popular dress until the 19th century.
When hosting your own Burns Supper, be sure to let your guests know how formal or informal the occasion is so that they can dress accordingly. Have a look at Lochcarron of Scotland's Made to Measure products on our website, and inject a bit of Scottish history into your Burns attire!
Food and Drink
With hearty Scottish food on the menu, a traditional Burns Supper is fairly straightforward.
Generally speaking, there are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to your Burns Supper starter. We would recommend using your favourite Scottish ingredients to create your perfect dish. Traditional Scottish soup is a popular choice to start the evening meal, either Cock-a-leekie, Scotch Broth or Cullen Skink are just some of our favourites to warm your guests before their main meal.
If you choose to take a fresh approach to start your guests off, putting together a grazing board filled with wholesome Scottish produce is a great alternative. Smoked Salmon, chutneys, oatcakes, fruit and of course delicious Scottish cheese would be greatly appreciated by your dinner party guests.
Served for your main meal is Scotland's national dish haggis, neeps and tatties. Don't worry if you are vegetarian, there are a great selection of alternative haggis options available in the supermarkets.
Accompany your haggis with mashed potatoes, swede and a whisky cream sauce to bring your meal together.
Clootie Dumpling is a steamed Scottish pudding made with dried fruit and spices, it is a great choice for a traditional Scottish dessert. Serve with a dram of whisky and ice cream or custard to complete your meal and leave your guests satisfied.
Alternatively, a hearty traditional Scottish sweet such a Cranachan, tablet or Selkirk Bannock would pull together your meal beautifully.
The Running Order
With traditions going back so long, there are different takes on how a Burns Supper should be held. Remember that each event is individual to the host, with the main objective to have fun and celebrate all things Scottish. Here is a generally accepted running order of a traditional Burns Supper:
- Pipe in the guests to their table
- A few welcome words from the host
- The Selkirk Grace is said once everyone is seated
The Selkirk Grace (Read 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.”
- Pipping in the haggis
- The famous Address to a Haggis
- The meal is served followed by dessert
- A tribute of Immortal Memory should be made to Burns
- A recital of a Burns song or poem
- Toast to the Lassies and their reply
After the final toast, feel free to throw in any added elements of entertainment! A ceilidh dance can not go amiss.
The End of the Evening
- Vote of thanks from the host
- To sing Auld Lang Syne - The best way to round off a successful Burns Supper joining hands through linked arms.
Happy Burns Night from Lochcarron of Scotland
Whether it be celebrated in person or over the all too familiar video call, we wish you the best when planning and hosting your Burns Supper this year.