(Last Updated On: January 11, 2018)
Before I moved to Edinburgh I had never heard of Burns Night, but I soon learnt it’s a tradition that Scots take very, very seriously. It’s a night celebrating not just Scotland’s greatest poet, but pretty much Scotland itself. If you fancy going along to one, prepare yourself for an abundance of kilts, whisky, haggis, Highland dancers, bagpipes, songs, poems and a party that’ll go long into the night.
What is Burns Night?
Burns Night is a celebration of poet Robert Burns, one of Scotland’s wholly trinity of famous writers (the other two being Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson). It is a lavish dinner, or supper as it is more commonly referred to, ideally held on his birthday, January 25th. It is totally acceptable and quite normal though for Burns Night celebrations to fall a couple of days either side of this date.
The first Burns was held in 1801, five years after his death and today, in the corporate world in Scotland, it is often one of the biggest charity events of the year. If you want to experience one of Scotland’s most traditional, long running events and get a proper feel for Scottish culture, a Burns Supper is where you’ll get it all in one, long, intense go.
What Happens at a Burns Supper?
Being so prestigious, most Burns suppers will be a black tie event at a huge venue, but there are plenty of people who host a more casual affair at home too. The food served is all Scottish favourites, or at least food that has a Scottish tweak, and courses are followed with traditional speeches and entertainment. It is considered an honour to be given the opportunity to recite one of the speeches, the Address to the Haggis. The haggis itself is brought in with much pomp and pageantry, sitting on a silver tray, led by a bagpipe player and shown reverence by all the guests who must stand up as it passes. The lucky speech giver then recites an ode to sheep offal, written by Burns himself.
As you can probably imagine, with some kind of speech, toast, entertainment or song between each course, a Burns Night is not a quick one. If you’re at a corporate event with a free bar, lets just say often a few gutters are inspected quite closely by a few faces by nights’ end.
Where Can I Go to One in Edinburgh?
The Ghillie Dhu has 6 Burns Nights to choose from starting 19th January and held in their opulent auditorium. If the whole shebang doesn’t entice you, they also have a three course Burns dinner in their downstairs bar, just so you can get a taste (hah!) of what it is all about.
Red Rose Street Festival
Produced by the Rose Street Theatre, The Red Rose Street Festival is three days full of Robbie Burns activities, including a Burns Supper on the 25th at the Freemasons Hall on George Street.
For other Burns Nights and Burns inspired events around town, check out The List.