Haggis, Shortbread and Whisky for Burns Night
Of the many annual celebrations in Scotland, Burns Night is a real highlight. This uniquely Scottish celebration of a world-famous poet is becoming more popular across the UK, and in Scotland it can be a lavish and ceremonial affair.
Burns Night is celebrated on January 25 every year, in celebration of the Scottish poet and national bard Robert Burns. He wrote many famous Scots poems, including some of his best known works, “Auld Lang Syne”, “A Man’s a Man for A’ That”, “Tam O’Shanter” and “Address to a Haggis”. Also known as “Ode to the Haggis”, this poem is a key part of the Burns Supper, a traditional meal with a number of rituals in honour of the great man.
Whether you’ll be hosting your own Burns Supper, join as a guest or attend one of the many events across Scotland, the UK and around the world - here’s what to expect at a Burns Night Supper.
Burns Night Traditions
The evening starts with piping in the guests. At larger events, a piper in full highland get-up will play traditional bagpipe music to accompany the guests entering the venue. If you don’t have a piper at hand, play some bagpipe music instead, and put one of our fun Piper Tins, filled with delicious shortbread rounds, on display as guests enter.
The host or chair welcomes the guests, and as everyone is seated, the Selkirk Grace or Burns’ Grace at Kirkcudbright is recited before the meal starts:
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.
The Burns Night menu
What to serve at a Burns Supper is not really up for debate. The traditional menu consists of three iconic Scottish dishes: cock-a-leekie soup, haggis with neeps and tatties, and a Scottish dessert of cranachan, clootie dumpling or tipsy laird for pudding. This is often followed by oatcakes and cheese. Many also like to serve some nibbles ahead of the main meal. Mini oatcake canapés, like smoked Scottish salmon with cream cheese, lemon and a twist of fresh black pepper, is a popular choice at Burns Suppers across Scotland.
The first course is the soup dish. Cock-a-leekie soup is made with leeks and chicken, and traditionally cooked with sweet prunes. Those who like some bite with their soup would appreciate a selection of bread, and some thick and crunchy wholegrain oatcakes served on the side.
The most ceremonial part of the evening is the Parade of the Haggis. The haggis, known as ‘the great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race’ in Burns’ poem, should be presented on a silver platter and carried forth to the table, accompanied by a traditional tune by the piper – or your CD player. ‘Address to a Haggis’ is usually performed with enthusiastic reverence, before the haggis is cut with alacrity at the famous verse:
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Once everyone has had their fill of haggis and the accompanying neeps and tatties, it is time for the pudding. Cranachan is often served with shortbread on the side. This adds a pleasing texture, and the sweet, buttery crumbliness of the shortbread complements the creamy oats and subtle whisky. The very classic combination is traditional shortbread fingers or decorative shortbread petticoat tails, which also look elegant on the plate. If you want to add a modern twist, why not try our Homebake Vanilla Shortbread which melt in the mouth, or delicious Glenfiddich Whisky Shortbread to bring out the whisky and honey flavour of the Cranachan.
For a variation on the traditional Scottish dessert, you could serve a delicious Glenfiddich Highland Whisky Cake, packed in a decorative tin. Moist and fruity, it is a favourite with those who appreciate the rich and complex taste of fruit, whisky and spices.
Scottish cheese and sweet things for after
Many like to finish off the Burns Supper with a cheese platter. Create the perfect Burns Night cheeseboard with delicious Scottish cheeses, such as Mull of Kintyre cheddar, Lanark Blue, Caboc cream cheese, Clava Brie and a creamy Crowdie. These are perfectly served with our selection of Scottish Biscuits for Cheese, with an addition of delicious Three Seed Oatcakes and the iconic Highland Oatcakes. Walkers have a wide range of oatcakes to serve with any cheeseboard, so find your favourites today.
The evening continues with readings, songs and recitals of Robert Burns’ Scots poems. The main speaker delivers the Immortal Memory, a speech about the life and work of the national bard, after which everyone toasts to the immortal memory of Robert Burns. Make sure you have a rich store of Scottish whisky to entertain the guests and toasting throughout the evening. There are Toasts to the Lassies and Reply from the Lassies, the iconic narrative poem Tam O’Shanter is usually recited, and the Last Manuscript Fragment is passed around and read by the celebrants.
Make sure you have a wee dram and maybe something sweet to nibble on during all this entertainment. Walkers Shortbread are the perfect accompaniment to the full-bodied Scottish Highland Whiskies. In keeping with the theme of the night, choose a Scottish Saltire Keepsake Tin with shortbread rounds embellished with thistles, the national flower of Scotland. Or go for the Highlander Tin which is richly decorated with tartan and a traditional Highland outfit. If you prefer a selection of shortbread shapes, our beautiful Shortbread Selection Tin is another favourite. When the evening finishes and everyone joins in a heartfelt rendition of Auld Lang Syne, you will still have the keepsake tins to remind you of the successful Burns Night Supper for years to come.