An easy guide to hosting your very own Burns Supper


Like most Scottish celebrations, Burns Nights revolves around one thing – food.

Today January 25, Scots from around the world will gather together to host Burns Suppers, in an evening that celebrates the life and works of Scotland’s beloved bard Robert Burns.

A chance to celebrate Scottish traditions, poems, songs and of course, the humble haggis, it’s a fun night whether it’s a formal dinner you host or a quiet gathering.

So what happens on Burns night?

We’ve put together an easy guide so that you can go as big (or as small) as you want when hosting your own Burns Supper.

Piping in the guests

The first order of business is welcoming in the guests.

No Burns night is complete without a piper drumming up excitement – ​​though if you don’t have access to one then, of course, Spotify will do – traditional Scottish music is the order of the day.

Chairman’s Welcome

The host of the evening then gathers the guests and marks the beginning of the evening’s entertainment.

And then, it’s time to get serious.

The Selkirk Grace

A short prayer is then read aloud:

“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.”

Nominate your best Burns speaker to bellow this from the top of the table.

A booming Scottish accent is mandatory for maximum effect.

Piping in the haggis

A pipe major piping in the haggis
A pipe major piping in the haggis

For one night only you can welcome your dinner in true style. The noise the better.

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After all, Scots do love to eat so why not make it as exciting as possible? Again, feel free to substitute in Spotify or Youtube here in place of an actual piper.

The main attraction has arrived and everyone’s geared up for an unforgettable feast.

Address to the haggis

The Haggis being dressed for a Burns Supper
The Haggis being dressed for a Burns Supper

Now for the hard bit…

One lucky diner will be selected to give their rendition of ‘To a Haggis’.

We suggest you choose someone who has practiced the poem in advance.

Or at the very least pick someone who has laid eyes on the never-ending tongue twister before tonight.

“Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain or the puddin’-race….”

We recommend you read this poem thoroughly before your big performance.

If executed correctly this can be the most moving moment of any Burns supper.

This is followed by the ceremonial cutting of the haggis marking the start of the feast. Finally, time to eat!

Toast to the haggis

The main event of a Burns Supper
The main event of a Burns Supper

Or so we thought.

Still focusing on the haggis and before everyone digs in, the crowd will normally toast the haggis.

To do this simply raise a glass and shout as jovially as possible: ‘The Haggis!’

Group participation makes Burns supper even better so get involved.

Finally, it really is time to eat!

With everything having gone smoothly with the preparation, it’s time to eat, drink and be merry.

The main part of the meal is of course the haggis but there’s often Cock-a-Leekie or Scotch Broth soup to start and Clootie Dumpling or Cranachan for dessert.

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And lots and lots of whiskey to wash it all down.

Toast to the Lassies

The Lassies' Toast
The Lassies’ Toast

This bit is just for the ladies.

Usually, a male guest will thank all the women who prepared the meal but times are changing and traditions with it and women are encouraged to return the gesture with a ‘Toast to the Laddies’.

The content of these speeches probably depends on how merry the guests are by this point in the evening.

There’s sure to be a few laughs anyway and this is your chance to shine if you’ve got something to add to the evening.

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Works by Burns

Burns night wouldn’t be Burns night without a good old sing-along or a recital.

Try A Man’s a Man and Parcel O’ Rogues to start. For a little added cute factor why not help the kids prepare something?

The Sair Finger? Jenny Wi The Mumps?

And don’t forget to end another amazing Burns night by joining hands and singing Auld Lang Syne.

Tartan is mandatory and much shortbread and Irn Bru should be consumed. Dancing is recommended early in the evening while you still can.

Isn’t it a shame Burns Night only happens once a year?

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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