What is Burns Night and why is it celebrated?

Robert Burns
Robert Burns

Today marks the annual celebration of Robert Burns with Scots the world over remembering the poet with haggis, a wee dram and renditions of his famous song Auld Lang Syne.

What is Burn’s Night?

Burn’s Night is held on 25 January each year and marks the day Scottish poet Robert Burns was born in 1759.

He is best known for the traditional New Year’s Eve song Auld Lang Syne, and most people celebrate Burns Night with a hearty feast, a glass of whisky (a wee dram) and speeches during dinner.

What does Burns Night celebrate?

Widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland, Burns is often referred to as Rabbie Burns or the Bard of Ayrshire.

The year after his death in July 1796, his friends celebrated his life and career on his
birthday which began the tradition which is still going strong today.

What do you eat on Burns night?

On Burns night, Haggis, neeps, tatties and a wee dram are traditionally consumed.

Haggis is a type of sausage prepared in a sheep’s stomach which is then minced with onion, oatmeal, suet (raw beef or lamb fat), spices, and salt, mixed with stock.

Neeps are turnips and swedes and tatties are potatoes, while a wee dram is a glass of
whisky.

For dessert, many whip up a Tipsy Laird (a whisky trifle) or cranachan (made of whipped cream, whisky, honey, raspberries and toasted oatmeal).

During formal and traditional meals bagpipes will often be playing in the background.

Burns Night speeches

Speeches have become synonymous with Burns Night and the evening traditionally begins with a thanksgiving in the Scots language called The Selkirk Grace.

After this has been said, haggis is generally brought in to the sound of bagpipes and a
tribute called ‘Address to the Haggis’ and ‘Toast to the Haggis’ is paid to the dish before eating it.

A short speech to remember the life of Robert Burns, or a reading of a poem titled the Immortal Memory should be followed by a ‘Toast to the Lassies’ (a light-hearted speech on women given by a male guest) and then the Reply to the Laddies – the ladies’ chance to respond.

Singing Burns’ songs and readings of his poems will be followed by the host calling a guest to give the vote of thanks after which everyone stands, joins hands and sings Auld Lang Syne which brings the evening to an end.

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