How To Host A Burns Night Supper

Shutterstock / CKP1001 © A table set for Burns Night supper
Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1796)

Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) Pic: Shutterstock

Hosting your own Burns Supper is a great way to celebrate the incredible work of the “national poet of Scotland” and to toast your Scottish roots…

Each year on January 25, the birth date of Scotland’s most famous poet, Robert Burns is commemorated, and you can join in this traditional evening of celebration with your own family and friends.

Here’s all the information you’ll need to host a Burns Supper gathering, including some delicious recipes to enjoy on the night.

Who was Robert Burns?

Born on January 25, 1759, in Alloway, Scotland, Robert (“Rabbie”) Burns was the eldest of seven children. He grew up in hardship, working on the land with his father. Later he became a tenant farmer himself, but it was his work as a Scottish poet and lyricist that brought him success. His best-known works include Auld Lang Syne, A Red, Red Rose and Tam O’Shanter.

Scottish Poet Robert Burns' birthplace in Alloway, now a museum

Scottish Poet Robert Burns’ birthplace in Alloway, now a museum Pic: Shutterstock

Why is Burns Night celebrated?

Rabbie Burns died on July 21, 1796, aged just 37. History suggests a group of Burns’ closest friends gathered for the fifth anniversary of his passing, at Burns Cottage in Alloway, where haggis was eaten and Burns’ work was recited. This celebration continued every year, moving to the birth date of the poet, and now it’s thought that over 9 million people worldwide celebrate Scotland’s Bard on January 25 each year.

Traditional Burns Night menu

A traditional main course is haggis, neeps (mashed turnip) and tatties (mashed potatoes), finished off with a dram of whisky, but some also start with soup (Scotch Broth or Cullen Skink) and finish with Cranachan, a delicious, easy Scottish dessert made with porridge oats and raspberries.

Or you could try something more contemporary, like haggis bon bons or haggis lasagne. Here are some recipes ideas for your celebration:

Haggis, neeps and tatties

Haggis, neeps and tatties stack Pic: Crabbies

Cranachan Cheesecake

Cranachan Cheesecake Pic: Drambuie

Burns Supper music

Set the tone of the evening with a Scottish playlist selected by the team on The Scots Magazine, the oldest magazine in the world still in publication!

Burns Night traditions

Haggis on a platter

Pic: Shutterstock

Any celebration of Burns’ poems and songs, plus a main course of haggis, finished off with a glass of whisky would be a fitting tribute on Burns Night, but if you would prefer to follow a traditional format, here’s a guide.

  • Invite friends and allocate each with a part in the celebrations (a host, two people who will each perform a piece of Burns’ work of their choosing, plus a man and woman for a Toast to the Lassies and Reply to the Toast)
  • The host should say a few words as a introduction at the table, then read the Selkirk Grace.
  • Serve the meal, piping in the haggis on a silver platter (for example, play a rendition of Burns’ song A Man’s a Man, For All That on the bagpipes)
  • The host performs the famous Burns Night poem Address to a Haggis, and the haggis is cut open when “An’ cut you up wi’ ready sleight” is recited in verse 3. Everyone toasts the haggis.
  • After the meal a piece of Burns’ work is read, then a tribute speech to Burns by the host follows (The Immortal Memory), and then a second recital of Burns’ work commences.
  • There’s a Toast to the Lassies by one of the men in the group, followed by a Reply to the Toast to the Lassies by one of the women in the gathering. These toasts can be light-hearted and humorous.
  • Finish the evening by singing Auld Lang Syne, joining hands and crossing arms in celebration of Scotland’s most famous Bard.

An error has occurred while loading your details. Please click the following link to try again - if the issue persists, please don't hesitate to contact us. Try again by refreshing the page.

Allison Hay

I joined the "My Weekly" team thirteen years ago and, more recently, "The People's Friend". I love the variety of topics we cover both online and in the magazines. I manage the digital content for the brands, sharing features and information on the website, social media and in our digital newsletters.