What is Burns Night? Well, it celebrates the life and poetry of the Scottish poet Robert Burns.
Observed on his birthday (25th January), the first celebration was held by his friends in 1801 - five years after his death.
Burns is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland, but his name is known around the world. His most famous poems are written in the Scots language, a form of Gaelic.
After his death, Burns became a source of inspiration for the founders of liberalism and socialism.
What happens at a Burns Supper?
Burns suppers can be fancy or very informal – it depends on the host. Whatever the case, they’ll almost certainly have a haggis as the centrepiece.
This traditional Scottish dish is celebrated by Burns in his work Address to a Haggis. You can also expect to find the Scotch whisky flowing and hear a fair bit of Burns’ poetry being recited.
The traditional order of the evening is as follows:
Piping in the guests by a bagpiper playing traditional scots music
Host’s welcome speech
The Selkirk Grace – a well-known thanksgiving prayer that would have been made before a meal during Burns’ lifetime
The Piping of the Haggis – everyone stands as the Haggis is brought in accompanied by a bagpiper playing
Address to a Haggis – one of Robert Burns’ most famous poems is recited as the knife to carve it is prepared.
Main Course – At the end of the poem there is a whisky toast and, of course, haggis, neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes) are served
At the end of the meal, there are three toasts: a toast to the life of Robert Burns, an Address to the Lasses – traditionally a short speech to the women who prepared the meal - and a Reply to the Laddies – a female guest responds to the Address to the Lasses, and shares her view on men.
The host will make a closing speech thanking all the guests before everyone sings Auld Lang Syne (and by this time you may have sunk a fair few drams).
Address to a Haggis
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o the puddin'-race! Aboon them a' ye tak your place, Painch, tripe, or thairm: Weel are ye worthy o' a grace As lang's my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill, Your hurdies like a distant hill, Your pin wad help to mend a mill In time o need, While thro your pores the dews distil Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight, An cut you up wi ready slight, Trenching your gushing entrails bright, Like onie ditch; And then, O what a glorious sight, Warm-reekin, rich!
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive: Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive, Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve Are bent like drums; The auld Guidman, maist like to rive, 'Bethankit' hums.
Is there that owre his French ragout, Or olio that wad staw a sow, Or fricassee wad mak her spew Wi perfect scunner, Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash, As feckless as a wither'd rash, His spindle shank a guid whip-lash, His nieve a nit; Thro bloody flood or field to dash, O how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed, The trembling earth resounds his tread, Clap in his walie nieve a blade, He'll make it whissle; An legs an arms, an heads will sned, Like taps o thrissle.
Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care, And dish them out their bill o fare, Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware That jaups in luggies: But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer, Gie her a Haggis
Address to a Haggis Translation
Fair and full is your honest, jolly face, Great chieftain of the sausage race! Above them all you take your place, Stomach, tripe, or intestines: Well are you worthy of a grace As long as my arm.
The groaning trencher there you fill, Your buttocks like a distant hill, Your pin would help to mend a mill In time of need, While through your pores the dews distill Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour wipe, And cut you up with ready slight, Trenching your gushing entrails bright, Like any ditch; And then, O what a glorious sight, Warm steaming, rich!
Then spoon for spoon, the stretch and strive: Devil take the hindmost, on they drive, Till all their well swollen bellies by-and-by Are bent like drums; Then old head of the table, most like to burst, 'The grace!' hums.
Is there that over his French ragout, Or olio that would sicken a sow, Or fricassee would make her vomit With perfect disgust, Looks down with sneering, scornful view On such a dinner?
Poor devil! see him over his trash, As feeble as a withered rush, His thin legs a good whip-lash, His fist a nut; Through bloody flood or field to dash, O how unfit.
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed, The trembling earth resounds his tread, Clap in his ample fist a blade, He'll make it whistle; And legs, and arms, and heads will cut off Like the heads of thistles.
You powers, who make mankind your care, And dish them out their bill of fare, Old Scotland wants no watery stuff, That splashes in small wooden dishes; But if you wish her grateful prayer, Give her [Scotland] a Haggis!
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