An evening of Burns' poetry and traditional Scottish food was first started by Burns' friends on the anniversary of his death (21st July) at the end of the 18th century. In 1801 the first Burns club started celebrating the evening of memory on his birthday. Nowadays it is celebrated in Scotland, Northern Ireland and in expatriate communities around the world (particularly New Zealand).
The food and drink
Often there is a starter of soup (Scotch Broth or cock-a-leekie are common), have a look at our recipes section
for some inspiration. The main course is always haggis
, neeps (turnips)
and tatties (potatoes)
often with a whisky sauce. Dessert is cranachan (whisky trifle) and oatcakes
and cheese. There is usually quite a lot of whisky being passed around!
There is often confusion over 'neeps'. The word is a Scots abbreviation of the word turnip, however here in Scotland what we call a turnip, is generally referred to in the rest of the world as a Swede! A Swede being a Swedish Turnip. Swedes are a yellowish/orange colour, quite sweet in taste and incredibly easy to mash up with salt and pepper to make a side-dish to the spicy haggis. Turnips
on the other hand are white with pinkish colouring and are delicious sliced raw into salads when young or roasted and added to soups and casseroles. So if you're going for a traditional Burns supper, you want to buy this Swedish Turnip.
The traditional sequence is as follows
Welcome speech and grace
Often the Selkirk Grace (also known as the Galloway or Covenanters Grace – it's not a Burns original but he was known to deliver it at an Earl of Selkirk's dinner).
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.
Entrance of the Haggis (don't worry we have a veggie version available in both of our Edinburgh shops!)
It is often piped in and then someone will give the "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 wordy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.
Ye Pow'rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinkin ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer,
Gie her a haggis!
For those of you who don't speak Lallans (lowland Scots) here's the anglicised version
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.
You powers, who make mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill of fare,
Old Scotland wants no watery soup,
That splashes about handled bowls;
But if you wish her grateful prayer,
Give her [Scotland] a Haggis!
There are toasts to the health of the monarch (toast tae the Queen), to Burns' (Immortal Memory), appreciation of the host, tae the lassies (given by a man) and tae the laddies (in response from a woman). There are also toasts to pretty much anything else you like, the country hosting, people involved and anyone who has previously toasted are common!
It is also common to have readings of Burns' work and occasionally other Scots songs, tales or poetry.
Slainte Mhath is the most common toast. Meaning good health to yours in Gaelic, it is pronounced Slan Je Va, slightly different to the Irish Gaelic Slainte, which is pronounced Slon Je.