Burns Night is upon us and you know what that means – it’s almost time to have some haggis, a wee dram, an’ ah few lovely tatties. Burns Night is the celebration of Robert Burns’ life and poetry, and it takes place every year on 25 January. The tradition started shortly after Burns’ death, when his friends made a pact to celebrate his life every year on 21 July – the date of his death – but over the years it became tradition to celebrate Burns Night on what would have been his birthday. If you want to get in on the festivities when we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know about Rabbie Burns and some classic quotes of his.
Rabbie Burns quotes and poem extracts Burns Night celebrations will usually kick-off with the host saying a few words, and sometimes reciting Burns’ Selkirk Grace. The Selkirk Grace, which is written in the Scottish dialect, as many of Burns’ poems were, goes like this:
‘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.’
Read about Burns Night in Scotland in 2020. Burns Night celebrates the life and work of Robert Burns, considered to be the national poet of Scotland.
When is Burns Night?
Burns Night is a cultural event that takes place on 25th January in Scotland.
It celebrates the life and work of Robert Burns, a Scottish poet who is widely seen as the national poet of Scotland.
While Burns Night is not a national holiday, it is arguably more widely celebrated than St. Andrew’s Day, Scotland’s national day.
History of Burns Night
Robert Burns was born on 25 January 1759 in Alloway, Scotland. Robert was born into a poor family, but his father ensured that he received a good education and Robert’s interest in reading fuelled his poetic output.
While earning a living as a farm worker, he started composing poetry as he worked. His first collection was published in 1786 and became an instant success, and Burns was seen as a leading light in the Romantic movement.
Only 37, Robert Burns died from a rheumatic condition on 21 July 1796.
The tradition of a Burns night (Burns supper) began shortly after the poet’s death when some of his friends gathered to remember Robert and his poetry on the anniversary of his birth.
As Robert Burns gained prominence as the greatest of Scottish poets, so the tradition of honouring his work on Burns night grew in popularity.
Though they may differ in formality, Burns evenings generally follow a similar pattern. A meal with haggis is served.
What is Haggis?
Haggis is a Scottish dish made from Sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs minced with onion oatmeal, suet and spices. It was traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach, though artificial casings are now more common.
Since 1971 it has been illegal to import haggis into the US from the UK due to a ban on food containing sheep lungs, which can constitute up to 15 percent of some traditional recipes.
A second key element is the drinking of a good Scottish single malt whiskey in honour of the poet.
Finally, the activities of the evening are framed within his poetry. When the haggis is carved, ‘To a Haggis’ is recited, with its famous line, “Great chieftain o’ the pudding race”. Before the meal another of Burns’ poems, the Selkirk Grace is read.
The evening ends aptly with “Auld Lang Syne”. Robert Burns was the first to write down this old Scottish folk song, and its popularity is now global as no New Year’s Eve party is complete without its rendition.
Did you know?
In 1956, the Soviet Union became the first country to honour Robert Burns with a commemorative stamp.
There are more statues, monuments and memorials dedicated to Robert Burns than any other non-religious figure, after Queen Victoria and Christopher Columbus.
In 2009, Scottish TV held a public vote on who was “The Greatest Scot” of all time. Robert Burns won, beating William Wallace of ‘Braveheart’ fame.
In 2008, Bob Dylan named Robert Burns’s poem ‘A Red, Red Rose’ his single biggest inspiration.
Falling dangerously close to an otherwise successful completion of a “dry January”, Burns night, makes for an appropriate occasion to fall off any rickety wagon.
Falling dangerously close to an otherwise successful completion of a “dry January”, Burns night, makes for an appropriate occasion to fall off any rickety wagon. Certainly, the celebrated 18th-century poet Robert “Rabbie” Burns, a hedonist of heroic proportions, would’ve sneered at suggestions his birthday, 25 January, be a tee-total affair.
Burns was a huge fan of whisky, despite eventually turning his hand to tax collection as an excise man, and the spirit subverted plenty of stanzas, with poems devoted to his favourite whisky, his preferred pub, while even lambasting the English for raising whisky duty.
To toast this legend of both liquor and literature, I’ve selected a collection that might have been close to his heart – quite a challenge since so many distilleries emerged after his death, when the English finally relaxed the duty.
As it happens, historians have suggested some of the drams Burns downed were less discerning, while he also sank an irresponsible dose of the stuff. So rather than go like for like, I’ve opted for some tenuous themes and advocate drinking less but better whisky.
In his Jolly Beggar poem Burns mentions a lowland whisky from the Kilbagie distillery, in Kincardine, which by all accounts would’ve been eye-watering gear.
Glenkinchie provides you with a softer, lighter and more balanced lowland, and the Glenkinchie 2016 Special Release is one I’ve been back to a few times.
It shows how a lighter foundation of this style can be reinforced with impressive maturation, still fresh, but sweet and spicy with it. Glenkinchie 2016 Special Release, £309, Whisky Exchange
Legend has it the brilliant bard liked a smooth spirit to accompany the rough element he mixed with in the pubs, and some say he often opted for a refined highland malt.
He would’ve been satisfied with Dalmore then, not least because the distillery is so inventive with expressions.[ . . . ]