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Burns Night

When is Burn’s Night?

Burn’s Night is always on 25th January each year, but it can be celebrated near to this date in a variety of ways. People often choose to mark the occasion on the nearest Saturday to the 25th of the month. A traditional Burn’s Night supper is usually celebrated accompanied by Scottish dancing or reeling.

Burns Night - Robert Burns

What is Burn’s Night?

Burn’s Night celebrates the music and poetry of song writer and poet Robert Burns from the 1700s. He wrote an abundance of works mostly on life and death, nature and love. Having grown up on a farm, one of his first pieces was a love poem written for the daughter of local farmer, at the tender age of 15. Throughout his short life (he sadly died penniless at the young age of just 37 from rheumatic fever), he wrote about women and love, but it wasn’t until after his death in 1796 that his work became more widely celebrated.

Burns was from Alloway, Ayrshire in Scotland, and a traditional Burn’s night celebrates everything essentially Scottish, with the ‘Ode or Address to the Haggis’ forming a central element of the supper. Bagpipes may ‘pipe’ the haggis to the table and guests would choose to wear traditional tartan or kilts. The address rejoices in honest Scottish food and dismisses French food as being fancy. The menu is traditional in its own right, with the haggis accompanied by ‘neeps and tatties’ (mashed swede and potatoes), and of course toasted with a ‘wee dram’ of whiskey! Scottish smoked salmon usually features as a starter. Dessert may take the form of toasted oatmeal with raspberries in a delicious ‘cranachan’, or oat cakes may be served with cheese for a savoury alternative.

Burns Night - Haggis with Neeps and Tatties

Why is Burn’s Night on 25th January?

About five years after his death, friends decided to honour Robert Burns’ memory with a party to celebrate his life, using some of his works and words to mark the occasion. A tradition which has continued to this day.

When was Burn’s Night first celebrated?

The first Burn’s Night Supper was held on 21st July 1801, marking the fifth anniversary of his death. By 1815 big literary Burns Suppers were organised by Sir Walter Scott in Edinburgh.

From the 1800s when Burn’s Night was first celebrated, the evening would have included after dinner speeches, with a toast to ‘The Immortal Memory’, closely followed by an ‘Address to the Lassies’ in honour of Burns’ love for women. The reciprocal speech in reply is the ‘Reply from the Lassies’, and of course lots of Scottish dancing or reeling to follow.

In many cases the speeches are limited to just the ‘Address to the Haggis’ however, with the focus being on friendship and enjoyment of good food and company. The evening still ends with one of Burns’ best known pieces ‘Auld Lang Syne’ which is sung the world over as a farewell piece on New Year’s Eve, at each night of the Military Tattoo in Edinburgh and in closing ceremonies for the Olympic Games.

Interesting Facts about Burn’s Night

Robert Burns was born on 25th January 1759 in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland. He died on 21st July 1796 in Dumfries, Dumfriesshire and his funeral took place on 25th July, 1796, on the day his son Maxwell was born.

Robert Burns penned many famous verses including 'Auld Lang Syne' and the 'Address to a Haggis'.

His love of wine, women and song made him Scotland’s most famous and well-loved poet.

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