It’s one of the biggest nights in the Scottish calendar. But what is Burns Night – and why has it been celebrated so passionately for more than 200 years?
Who was Robert Burns?
Robert (or “Rabbie”) Burns was a famous poet, born on 25th January 1759. To say his poetry is culturally important is something of an understatement. His works are stitched in to the very cultural fabric of Scotland. So iconic is Burns that in 2009 he was chosen as the greatest Scot in a vote run by Scottish television channel STV.
Affectionately known as “the bard”, some of Burns’ most famous works include Auld Lang Syne, A Red, Red Rose, A Man’s a Man for A’ That, To A Mouse, To A Louse and Tam o’ Shanter. Legend has it that Burns used to hang out in his favourite public houses of an evening and write poetry for the locals in exchange for a glass of whisky.
What’s Burns Night?
Burns Night is the annual celebration that commemorates Burns’ life, his poetry and his contribution to Scottish culture. The first celebration was held on 21st July 1801 on the fifth anniversary of Burns’ death. In 1803 the date of Burns Night was moved to 25th January to honour the anniversary of Burns’ birth rather than his death.
Burns Night celebrations differ in the nuances, but all will include a meal – called a Burns Night supper (more on that below). Depending on the formality of the event there may also be recitals of his poetry, pipers, after-dinner speeches and dancing. Oh and at least one glass of scotch.
What’s on the menu?
The food most synonymous with Burns Night is haggis with neeps (mashed turnips) and tatties (mashed potato). This will be preceded by a starter of cock-a-leekie, a traditional Scottish chicken and leek soup. Rounding off the meal is a pudding of cranachan – think: whipped cream, whisky, honey and raspberries.
Again, depending on the formality of the event, a tradition may be observed called “the piping of the haggis”. Everyone stands up as the haggis is brought to the dining table while a piper plays the bagpipes. The host of the evening – or sometimes a guest – then recites Burns’ famous poem Address to a Haggis, an eight-stanza ode to the reverence of one of Scotland’s favourite dishes.
Fancy it? Don’t go without us…!
The best way to grab yourself an authentic Burns Night experience is to get to Scotland and book yourself in at a restaurant that’s offering a traditional Burns Night supper. And if you need cheap travel insurance for your journey, get an instant quote online at World-First.co.uk.