What is a Burns Supper?

“What on earth is a Burns Supper?”

I hear you ask!

Well for those of you unfamiliar with this great Scottish tradition I’ll hopefully fill in the knowledge gaps.

I have the privilege of having many Scottish friends (one friend, Seonaid, even shares Mr Burns birthday I might add) and so I have been invited to a Burns Supper every year for as long as I can remember. Even when I lived in New Zealand I attended a Burns Night Ball.

Funnily enough, some of my very early novelty cakes were made for the host of a Burns Supper party.

A Burns Supper is the celebration of the life and of course the poetry of the late great Robert Burns who was born on 25th January 1759. A Burns Supper is usually held on his birthday or as near as possible.

It is not obligatory to wear a kilt but a hint of tartan somewhere in your outfit is a nice touch if you are invited to a Burns Supper.

There are several traditions associated with this celebration.

The first is the piping in of the guests. If you can’t track down a traditional Scottish piper then bagpiped music can be streamed to keep that authenticity

The host will then give a welcome speech, thanking all of the guests for gathering.

They will then say the Selkirk Grace this is a thanksgiving verse for the food you are about to eat and sounds amazing recited by a Scot.

Some hae meat an canna eat,

And some wad eat that want it;

But we hae meat, and we can eat,

And sae the Lord be thankit.

Now you can start to eat!

The first course of a Burns Supper will usually start with soup. Scoth Broth, Cullen Skink or perhaps a Cock-a-Leekie soup are the most popular Burns Supper starters.

Next it’s time for the main event……. The Piping In of The Haggis!

It is usual for all guests to stand for the arrival of the haggis. The cook will bring it in while the piper (or bagpipe music) plays.

The host will then recite The Address to The 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 airm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’ need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dicht,
An’ cut you up wi’ ready slicht,
Trenching your gushing entrails bricht,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sicht,

Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmaist! on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve,
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
“Bethankit” hums.

Is there that o’re his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi’ perfect scunner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him ower his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash,

His nieve a nit;
Thro’ bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his wallie nieve a blade,
He’ll mak it whistle;
An’ legs an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,
Like taps o’ thristle.

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!

When the line His knife see rustic Labour dicht, is said, the host reading the poem pulls out and sharpens a knife (or dagger if being truly authentic). when they read the line An’ cut you up wi’ ready slicht, they plunge the knife into the haggis and cut it open. If this is done in a dramatic way it should be the highlight of the dinner (poor old haggis!!!!)

When this poem has been read and the haggis cut open a whiskey toast is proposed to both the haggis and the guests.

The haggis is then served with neeps (which is mashed swede) and tatties (mashed potatoes) and guests can now sit down and enjoy the meal (for those more squeamish guests vegetarian haggis is available).

Of course a fabulous celebration cake can be served for desert and a novelty Burns Supper cake with a Scottish theme will always be a hit!

The evening usually continues with more whiskey toasts such as an: address to the ladies and an address to the gentlemen.

If you are still standing after all of the whiskey and rich food it’s great to finish the night with some Scottish dancing (Ceilidh). It is wise to have a caller to shout out the dance moves during a Ceilidh. Dances like the Gay Gordons and Strip the Willow are great fun!

So that is a Burns Supper in a nutshell.

I hope you enjoy your Burn Night and maybe this has inspired you to wear some tartan and have some Celtic fun!

Lisa x

If you would like to chat about a birthday cake, wedding cake, celebration cake, christening cake or even a Burns Supper cake please get in touch, I’d love to chat to you: vanillamooncakes@gmail.com

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