But first things first:
Who’s Robert Burns?
A lover of women, words and Whisky, Rabbie inspired greats such as J.D. Salinger, John Steinbeck and Bob Dylan to name but a few. He also fathered at least 12 children in his 37 years.
He died on July 21st 1796, the date that Burns Night was first celebrated 5 years later in 1801, in his memory. The Burns Night celebration is now held on his birth date, January 25th. With the basics covered, it’s now time to
Celebrate Burns Night like a True Scot!
Burns Night Supper begins with the piping in of the guests, an introduction from the host and the saying of the Selkirk Grace. Now stand up, take a deep breath, and read it out loud in your best Scottish accent:
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.
After this rousing little verse, it’s time for haggis. Can you think of a better way to usher in a meal than with a standing ovation and a good old burst of the bagpipes? This is a truly spectacular moment. When else in life can you watch as an eight verse long poem is recited to a haggis?!
The poem in question is Burns’ own Address to a Haggis, a fantastic rhyme that includes everything you would ever want to say to a haggis, including a reference to it as the “Great chieftain o' the pudding-race”!
For those of us who are more into Whisky, Whisky poetry can be found as well, as Robert Burns wrote an ode to Scotch. So why not practice your Scottish accent once again with this passage:
O Whisky! soul o' plays and pranks!
Accept a bardie's gratfu' thanks!
When wanting thee, what tuneless cranks
Are my poor verses!
Thou comes - they rattle in their ranks,
At ither's arses!
It's now the time to let others in the limelight for a series of speeches and Burns' poetry recitals. This is also the time you've been most anxiously waiting for:
The Toast to the Lassies is something quite different. This involves a speech specifically written to celebrate women, particularly those in the crowd. Rabbie adored women (note the plural here) and this toast is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the fairer sex.
Finally, to bring the night to magnificent end, the guest sing Auld Lang Syne, one of Burns most famous songs that's of course, traditionally sang (read: shouted) on New Year’s Eve.
The song brings the night to an uplifting end, uniting everyone in the room in the name of good fun and high spirits! That is, unless there’s also a Ceilidh taking place, in which case the frivolities are far from over. This Gaelic gathering involves live folk music, group dancing and a dizzying amount of twirling. After a fair few Whiskies, anything goes.
Your Burns Night Phrasebook
Tha an t-acras orm – I’m hungry
Tha am pathadh orm – I’m thirsty
Lang may yer lum reek! – Live long and prosper
Sláinte! – Cheers!
Taghta – ‘Chosen’... and the name of a great accompaniment to your meal.
Well done! You’re now ready: Open that bottle of Scotch and join the celebration!