25th January marks the birthday of Scotland’s most famous poet, Rabbie (Robert) Burns – writer of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ as well as other favourites like ‘Tam o’ Shanter’ and ‘My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose’.
All over the globe, people gather to celebrate this date in the form of a ‘Burns Supper’ – an evening of poetry, music, whisky, laughter and of course, great food.
A Burns Supper is an entertaining affair, centred around a main course of Haggis, Neeps (mashed swede) and Tatties (mashed potatoes).
People sit down to the table and the ‘Selkirk Grace’ is recited:
Some hae meat an’ canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae lat the Lord be thankit.
(Some have meat and cannot eat
Some would like to eat but have none
But we have meat, and we can eat
So let the Lord be thanked)
The haggis is ‘piped in’ by a bagpiper, and cut open to the words of Burns’ famous ‘Address to a Haggis’. In this, he calls the haggis ‘Great Chieftan o’ the puddin’ race!’ – a description with which we’re inclined to agree ! The haggis is dramatically slashed open and served up.
Drams of whisky are raised in toast, and everyone tucks into their meal. After the dessert, one of Burns’ poems or songs is recited, and a tribute speech known as the Immortal Memory is given.
Another recital, and then the ‘Toast to the Lassies’ is given by one of the male diners. This is usually written by the performer, and tends to revolve around a humorous look at femalekind.
One of the Lassies then replies in ‘The Lassies’ Response’ – again, usually written for the occasion and frequently an affectionate dig at the males of the species. After one further Burns recital, the evening is rounded off with a lively rendition of ‘Auld Lang Syne’, with everyone singing along and crossing hands in the chorus.