Scotland Honors its National Poet on Burns Night

Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland was not only a great poet and songwriter he was also a keen social commentator who wrote with great empathy about love and universal brotherhood. Visitors to Scotland in January must definitely partake in a Burns Night supper ritual that is held all over Scotland on his birth anniversary, January 25th as a tribute to his memory. Irrespective of whether it is held in a formal dining room or the local pub, the program followed is the same. In fact this ritual has now spread to other parts of the world.

The guests are welcomed by a bagpiper in full traditional Scottish dress who plays till the High Table is seated. The chairman for the evening invites the guests to clap and receive the haggis, the national dish of Scotland, brought in by the chef to the tunes of the bagpiper. This traditional Scottish dish is made of minced heart, liver and lights of a sheep, cooked with spices, seasoning, suet, oatmeal and onions boiled in a sheep’s stomach.

The meal is preceded by Burns’ Selkirk Grace, recited by the chairman:

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 traditional Burns supper menu consists of cock-a-leekie soup or Scotch broth followed by haggis served with mashed “tatties and neeps” (potatoes and turnips). Tipsy Laird (sherry trifle) is followed by oatcakes and cheese; all this with liberal tots of Scotch whisky.

Recitation of Burns’ poems and speeches follows, mostly about the relevance of Burns’ work today. Once the speeches are done the evening continues with songs and poems written by Burns. This invariably includes Tam O’Shanter, Address To The Unco Guid, To A Mouse, and Holy Willie’s Prayer. The evening ends with the company standing, linking hands and singing one of Burns’s most famous works, Auld Lang Syne. It is a privilege to share this wonderful ceremonial meal in Scotland in honor of a favorite son even two centuries after he lived.