Oh thou, my Muse! Guid auld Scotch drink!
Whether thro wimplin worms thou jink,
Or, richly brown, ream owre the brink,
In glorious faem,
Inspire me, till I lisp and wink,
To sing thy name.
—Robert Burns, “Scotch Drink”
Haggis, neeps, and tatties are on the menu. Whisky, too, of course.
Lovers of Scottish culture the world over gather annually to celebrate the birth of Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns, on January 25, 1759. The first recorded Burns Night Supper honoring the poet (famed for poems such as “Tam O’ Shanter” and “Ode to Haggis”) took place in 1801 in his birthplace village of Alloway, and the evening’s line-up of toasts, poems, and bagpipe ditties has varied little ever since.
Revelers dine on a traditional meal of haggis (sheep organ meats blended with oatmeal and spices), neeps (turnips), and tatties (potatoes), washed down with copious drams of whisky. (Non-meat eaters can serve vegetarian haggis.) Festivities are capped off with the joining of hands and the singing of the bard’s great song of parting, “Auld Lang Syne.”
Restaurants, pubs, hotels, and dining halls all over Scotland host Burns Night Suppers. The occasion is also widely celebrated in the U.S. and Canada, so check to see if the wordsmith is being feted in your town.
If you’d like to host your own gathering, Scotland.org has a Burns’ Supper Guide with tips on food, drink, attire, and entertainment. The guide is included on a free Robert Burns App along with a biography, visual timeline of the bard’s life, and more than 500 poems and love songs.