Burns Suppers have been part of our culture in Scotland for about 200 years. It is the time that we commemorate the birth of our beloved and famous Poet, the great Rabbie (or Robert) Burns. He was born on 25th January in 1759 in Alloway, near Ayr on the west coast of Scotland and he died when he was only 37 years old on 21st July 1796.
He wrote hundreds of poems and songs and left a huge legacy for the people of Scotland. One of his poems, 'The Address to the Haggis' has become immortalised and is now a central part of a Burns Supper. The first Burns supper was believed to have been in July of 1801 to mark the anniversary of his death. It was held in Alloway when a group of Rabbie's friends got together.
It was on this occasion that some of the traditions with which we associate
with Burns Suppers today, were started, such as the menu of
Haggis as the
main course (and whisky, of course) and the reading of his poem "Address to a
Burns Suppers have developed over the years, and nowadays Scots, and those
with an affinity to Scotland, have developed the tradition of celebrating Burns
Night with a traditional 'Burns Supper'. Sometimes the supper is a formal
affair, while other folk who just love Burns' Work will gather with some
friends to celebrate.
Burns Suppers are of course just one of the many traditions we have in Scotland. Hogmanay is also very famous and we also celebrate Christmas in our own unique way as well as Valentine's Day, as well as St Andrews Day.
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The Supper Format
The first thing is that there must be a chairperson, who will give the
'Opening Address' with some welcoming words.
Prior to the commencement of the supper, Rabbie Burns' Famous Selkirk
Grace will be prayed.
The guests all stand to welcome the haggis.
A piper then comes in, followed by the chef, who slowly and
ceremoniously carries the haggis to the main table.
The guests participate in this ritual with a slow handclap.
The chairman or perhaps another invited guest formally and
enthusiastically recites Rabbie's famous poem
To a Haggis.
When he reaches the line 'an cut you up wi' ready slight', he cuts open
the haggis with a sharp knife.
The speaker is applauded and everyone stands and toasts the haggis
with a glass of whisky.
The Supper will commence. (Below is the most famous Grace by Burns, but if you want an alternative grace have a look at the Grace before Dinner page.)
by Robert Burns
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.
The occasion is celebrating the birth of Rabbie Burns, and during the course of
the evening, one of the guests is asked to give a short speech on Burns. The
purpose of this is to celebrate the greatness and indeed relevance of the poet
today, and these speeches can be light-hearted or serious.
The main speech is followed by a more light-hearted address to the 'lassies' or
women in the audience. This used to be a sort of "thank you" to the
them for preparing the food, and also a time to toast the many
'lasses' in Burns' life. The tone is normally light-hearted and even amusing.
A response is usually made where the women can return the 'compliments'. Again,
is normally quite light hearted and amusing.