Don’t fret if you’re feeling let-down now that 2023 has begun and the big winter holidays are over. Burns’ Night falls on January 25th and is an event that anyone and everyone can celebrate. This special supper commemorates the life and work of Scottish poet Robert Burns. The festivities include a cozy traditional feast, music, and recitation of Burns’ poetry. Hearty food and abundant whisky are sure to warm even the most indelible late-January chills. 

The National Bard

A portrait of Robert Burns

There’s a good chance you’re familiar with the work of Robert Burns. He is responsible for writing “Auld Lang Syne”, which is purportedly the 3rd most sung song in the English language. His other well-known works include “A Red Red Rose”, “Selkirk Grace”, and the Burns’ Night staple “Address to a Haggis”. His love of life’s simple pleasures shines in his poetry and inspired artists like Wordsworth, Salinger, and even Bob Dylan. Burn’s work is significant in its ability to highlight the beauty in everyday working life. This lyricist lived the life of a humble farm worker and died early at 37, but the “Ploughman Poet’s” status as the national bard of Scotland remains to this day. 


Some individuals choose to privately hold these suppers in their homes, but fear not if none of your compatriots are hosting. Scottish cultural associations in North America & worldwide will host Burns’ Nights for members, and many pubs will host similar public events on the evening of the 25th. Looking up “Burns night” along with your city should procure results. If you’re attending for the first time, bring a willingness to try haggis and a love of poetry. A formal dinner might call for traditional attire for the gentlemen; so ready your best suit jacket, vest, and kilt (or rent them) in your preferred tartan. For the ladies, anything from a tartan accessory to an earasaid is appropriate. 


An old etched illustration of a Burns Night celebration.

Ready to host your own Burn’s Night event? We wrote earlier about how haggis can be difficult to obtain in the U.S. , but not to worry; the Celtic Croft has you covered . The rest of what you need is relatively easy to come by. Traditional music is a must, so book a piper through our growing directory. Or, grab a CD of choice from a variety of Scottish musicians to suit your event. The standard main course includes haggis with neeps and tatties (mashed potatoes and turnips). Sides may include cheese, coffee, dessert, and plenty of whisky. You’ll want to have your favorite works by Burns on hand, which are readily available online. Remember to appoint two attendees to write the humorous toasts which close the meal, the “Address to the Lassies” and “Reply to the Laddies”. For those looking to go all-out, try a tartan table runner or customized clan crest whisky glasses for your guests. 

Wherever you are, have a warm & safe Burns’ Night – and remember not to drink & drive! We’ll see you in February. I leave you with my favorite Robert Burns poem: 

To a Mouse

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie,

O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!

Thou need na start awa sae hasty,

          Wi’ bickerin brattle!

I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee

          Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion

Has broken Nature’s social union,

An’ justifies that ill opinion,

          Which makes thee startle,

At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,

          An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;

What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!

A daimen-icker in a thrave

          ’S a sma’ request:

I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,

          An’ never miss ’t!

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!

It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!

An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,

          O’ foggage green!

An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,

          Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,

An’ weary Winter comin fast,

An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,

          Thou thought to dwell,

Till crash! the cruel coulter past

          Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee-bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble

Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!

Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,

          But house or hald,

To thole the Winter’s sleety dribble,

          An’ cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,

In proving foresight may be vain:

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men

          Gang aft agley,

An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,

          For promis’d joy!

Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!

The present only toucheth thee:

But Och! I backward cast my e’e,

          On prospects drear!

An’ forward tho’ I canna see,

          I guess an’ fear!


(modern English translation here)


Burns Night, Burns Supper, haggis, party, Robert Burns
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