In Scotland (and now all over the world) admirers of Robert Burns celebrate his life and poems by having a Burns Supper on Burns Night. Burns Night is held on 25th January (the birthday of Robert Burns) and this is sometimes referred to as Robert Burns Day.
A Burns Supper, a meal to celebrate Robert Burns, can be formal occasions or more relaxed gatherings.
A traditionl formal Burns Supper – like those held by Burns Clubs and Freemason groups – follow a set pattern and order. Here is an example of a formal Burns Supper:
- Guests arrive.
- The host gives a welcome speech, the guests are seated and grace is performed.
- A starter of soup is served.
- The Piping of the Haggis takes place – the main course of haggis is brought to the table accompanied by a piper playing bagpipes.
- The host (or another guest) recites Robert Burns’ Address to a Haggis,and the haggis is cut.
- The haggis is served with tatties (mashed potatoes) and neeps (mashed turnip).
- A dessert course and cheese course may follow the haggis. The desserts are usually traditional Scottish recipes, such as: Tipsy Laird (trifle).
- One of the guests will give a short speech called the Immortal Memory. This speech will focus on aspects of life of Robert Burns or his work. A toast to Robert Burns is then drunk.
- The host will say a few words of thanks, before the Toast to the Lassies takes place. This is a speech given by a male guest to the women. It was traditionally a speech of thanks for the women who had prepared the food, but in recent times the focus of the speech will be more broad. It is meant to be funny but should not cause offence.
- A female guest will have a chance to repsond to the last speech with her Reply to the Toast of the Lassies.
- Once the speeches have been completed, songs by Burns will often be sung and his poems recited.
- The closing tradition is for the host to gather the guests and invite them to join hands and sing Auld Lang Syne.