How to Host Your Own Burns Night

How to Host Your Own Burns Night

How to Host Your Own Burns Night 

Dates and Invitations: Burns Night is traditionally celebrated on January 25th, the poet’s birthday.

Venue: Choose a venue that suits the size of your guest list.  It can be a formal dinner setting or a more casual gathering at home.

Dress: Encourage guests to wear traditional Scottish attire, such as kilts but be sure to wear some kind of tartan.

Decorations: Decorate the tables with tartan tablecloths and thistles.

The Selkirk Grace:  Begin the evening with the Selkirk Grace, a short prayer traditionally said before the meal.  

“Some hae meat

And canna eat,

And some wad eat

That want it,

But we hae meat

And we can eat,

Sae let the Lord be Thankit!”

By Robert Burns


The Address to the Haggis: The highlight of the evening is the “Address to a Haggis.”  This involves the entrance of the haggis to the accompaniment of bagpipes to a standing slow clap from the guests.  This is followed by the recitation of Burns’ famous poem.  The haggis is then ceremoniously cut.

Traditional Food and Drink:  Serve a traditional Scottish meal starting with Scotch broth or cock-a-leekie soup.  The haggis is then served with neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes) and while it may not please the purists, whisky cream sauce is often a welcome addition, as is the option of vegetarian haggis. Red wine goes well with haggis. A good source for haggis is

A Scottish dessert is in order, with cranachan, clootie dumpling and tipsy laird (whisky trifle with Scottish raspberries) going down well, followed by oatcakes and cheese, as an homage to his cheese-maker mother – then tea with shortbread or tablet.  Offer a selection of Scotch whiskies for making the toasts.

Entertainment: Include Scottish folk songs either live or on CD.  You could even hire a bagpiper for a real authentic touch.  Have some recite Burns’ poems or invite guests to share their favorite Burns works.

Toasts: Raise toasts not only to the haggis but to the lassies and the laddies.  Include some humorous and thoughtful toasts in the spirit of Robert Burns.

Closing Remarks:  At the close of the evening guests stand, join hands, and sing Auld Lang Syne before departing.

Remember, the key is to celebrate in a way that reflects the warmth, humor and appreciation for the Scottish culture that Robert Burns valued but feel free to adapt the traditions to suit your preferences and those of your guests.

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