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Hosting a Burns Supper at Home (Part 1)

The Essentials

A Burns Supper is a tradition started by the friends of Robert Burns in 1801 on the fifth anniversary of his death. They started as informal affairs, but thousands of these formal dinners are held all over the world every year around Burns’ birthday on January 25th. 

Because of isolation restrictions during the pandemic we aren’t able to have a formal dinner this year but we are here to assist you in having your own private gathering in memory of the Bard of Ayreshire. 

So what are the essentials to stage a Burns Dinner?

  1. A group of friends or family. This is a celebration, so find a friend, family member or someone you can have a Video Chat with to share in the festivities. You can’t properly do this alone. Burns was known for his circle of friends and that is part of the what we are commemorating
  2. Find a haggis. There are a few places online to get a haggis. I recommend a one pound haggis for every four people. You do not have to import one from Scotland (It is hard/expensive to do that and it won’t be a proper haggis as import restrictions make that tricky, but many of the domestic haggis can be quite good).
  3. Get some Scotch. If single malts aren’t your thing, or Scotch isn’t your drink that’s fine, but some sort of spirit or wine is traditional for making toasts. In cases where that’s not appropriate (you know who you are) then a sparkling juice or seltzer may be substituted.
  4. Find a book of Burns poems. There are several specific poems you’ll want to locate: An Address to the Haggis, the Selkirk Grace, and possibly Auld Lang Syne
  5. Tartans (Optional).  If you have a family tartan, it is traditional to dress for the occasion. Robert Burns celebrated his highland heritage and you should, too! If you don’t know your family tartan, or don’t have one, the Black Watch tartan is not family-specific and is completely appropriate (especially for military). Or look for one of the many, many cultural and geographic tartans that are available. 

Once you’ve assembled all of these elements you are ready to put together a Personal-sized Burns dinner for your friends and family that will be fun, educational, and the heart of a tradition that has been continuous for over 200 years. 

Part 2 (The Program)

Resources

Background

Video Chat: 

Haggis Sources

Scotch

Burns Poetry

Tartans

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