Not sure what Burns night is? In 1801, on the fifth anniversary of poet Robert Burns' death, a small group of friends gathered for a celebratory supper to commemorate his life and works. The night involved dining on haggis, reciting Burns' infamous poetry and raising a toast in memory of their dear friend. This dinner was such a success they decided to turn it into a biannual affair. Little did they know that they’d established the global phenomenon we now know as Burns Night.
Scottish or not, Burns night is the perfect opportunity to throw a party to mark the life of an international hero. So it’s time to pull on your best tartan glad rags, unearth your finest whisky and feast till your heart’s content. Here’s how to throw a Scottish inspired supper in style.
What to wear?
Anything, so long as it’s tartan. If you don't fancy going the whole hog, take the subtle approach and opt for tartan accessories instead. This might involve wearing a tartan scarf, broach or tie for example.
What to say?
The prayer of thanks attributed to Burns,"The Selkirk Grace"is said before dinner. After the meal there is an "Immortal Memory" toast in which a guest gives a witty speech in memory of the great poet. A "Toast to the Lassies" is then given. This is a humorous yet complimentary speech on women's role in life, usually referencing quotes from Burns' work. It might also involve a shout out to the women on the table.
What to eat?
A hearty Burns Supper often starts off with a traditional Scottish broth. It's after this that the symbolic heart of Burns night, Haggis, is served. This is usually accompanied with a generous portion of neeps and tatties or what's also known as turnips, swedes and potatoes.
What to listen to?
The haggis is traditionally brought in by live bagpipe music. Whilst it's unlikely you'll have a band on hand, it’s worth having some pre-recorded melodies playing in the background, ready for when you serve it up. If you can't take a whole meal's worth of bag pipes, perhaps stick on your favourite Scottish band instead.
What to drink?
It’s a tradition to toast the haggis with the most famous of Scottish tipples, whisky. If you're not a big fan of whisky, whisky infused cocktails make a great alternative. Stock up on plenty of luscious red wine to sip on too.
How to decorate the table?
For a true highland kick, deck out the table with some suitably stylish Scottish decorations, some simple ideas include:
- Scattering some wild/ fake heather on the table
- Wrapping cutlery in tartan ribbons or napkins
- Adding plenty of candles
- Decorating chairs with tartan cushions
- Stocking up on tartan crockery
- Using a checked throw to cover a dining room sofa
If you don't feel like you could manage a whole night's worth of Scottish celebrations, perhaps choose just a few of the tips from above and stick on your favourite Scottish film instead. Braveheart anyone?