Burns Night marks the anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns on 25 January 1759.
A Burns night supper can vary from an informal gathering with friends to a huge formal dinner. The aim is to enjoy Burns works whilst eating a hearty feast, drinking whisky and wine.
This is my familys tradition. The evening starts with a reading of the Selkirk Grace followed by soup, often it is cock-a-leake. Next the haggis is brought to the table and is served with mashed turnips and potatoes, usually accompanied by bagpipe music. Dessert follows, a Cloote dumpling (the cloote is a pudding wrapped in a linen cloth and cooked by boiling) or Cranachan (a mixture of raspberries, toasted oats, cream and whisky). More of Burns works are read, such as Toast to the Lassies, and the night ends by singing Burns work Auld Lang Syne.
I know of a Burns Night held in Edinburgh by students who gathered with three Pipers. It was very noisy affair especially as the haggis was brought to the table. Many drams were drunk and after the Toast to the Lassies one of the pipers climbed on to the table. He strode up and down with his kilt swirling leaving nothing to the imagination, enough to put you off your pudding. You can find haggis to buy in most supermarkets, I prefer MacSweens!
There are many versions of the reading of “Tam A Shanter” etc on YouTube. Always worth watching with a wee dram in your hand, even if you cannot understand a word of it.
Burns was born in Scotland and his early life was marked by back breaking work on a succession of small farms. His father ensured that he learned the 3Rs, some French and plenty of religion. When his father died he took the tenancy of the farm. His last employment was working as an excise collector. He published a volume of his poems in 1786 which was an immediate success being enjoyed by simple country folk and sophisticated critics alike. This has been his enduring appeal to this day. Following a colourful life, he died aged 37. The first Burns supper was held in July 1801 when nine of Burns close friends got together to mark the anniversary of their friend’s death. The night was such a success they decided to hold it again (this time in honour of Rabbie’s birthday), beginning the tradition we still enjoy throughout the world today.