How to Celebrate Burns Night in 2021

Burns night celebrates the life and works of Robert Burns, Scotland’s National Bard. Burns suppers, held across the country on 25th January, are fun evenings full of traditions, delicious food, whisky, poetry, and music. Read on if you would like to learn more about Scotland’s National Poet, Burns Supper and how to celebrate Burns Night in 2021.

Robert Burns

Robert, or Rabbie, Burns, lived in the 2nd half of the 18th century and is the most famous Scottish poet who wrote in the Scots language (as well as English). His iconic works, that focus on the themes of nature, love and family, made a lasting mark on Scottish literature and culture in general. A BBC article explains that Burns’ work remains popular today due to  “the themes and language of everyday life that he used. His poems were humorous and he used small subjects to express big ideas.[1] The legacy continues to live on as we celebrate the birthday of Scotland’s national poet by hosting Burns suppers.

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/why-is-robert-burns-work-still-so-popular-today/zky747h 

Burns Supper 

Burns supper can be held as a larger event, as well as a more intimate version for family and friends at your home. There are some key elements that are always followed. The traditional meal would consist of a cock-a-leekie soup, haggis, neeps and tatties, and a cranachan for a dessert. The evening starts off by piping in the guests (at large gatherings) but if you do not have a piper at hand, some traditional music will do. The host welcomes all the guests, and a prayer (The Selkirk Grace) is said so that the meal can begin. The attention then turns to the most important part of the meal, the HAGGIS. At larger events, the haggis is piped in as it is brought to the table, but at home the focus is on the address to the haggis performed by the host (full poem ‘Address to a Haggis’ can be found here), who then invites everyone to raise their glass and toast to the haggis. The evening then continues with a couple of rounds of recitals of some of Burns’ most famous works, all the while enjoying our national drink, Scotch whisky. It is also common to sing Auld Lang Syne at the end while standing up and holding hands.

Burns Night in 2021

Even though the situation does not allow for in-person gatherings this year, there are many digital initiatives taking place over the coming weekend and Monday that will help you celebrate the occasion in style:

  • Burns & Beyond, a festival that celebrates the life and works of Robert Burns by showcasing the best of Scotland’s art and culture.
  • A Virtual Burns Night, a performance organized by Historic Environment Scotland and hosted by Edinburgh Castle, will stream on both Facebook and YouTube.
  • Burns Big Night In, a full programme organized by the National Trust for Scotland, will take place on Sat 23rd Jan (7 pm). You can expect appearances from many great artists, musicians, and leading experts that will provide an insight into the life and works of Robert Burns.
  • Burns Night with the Scotch Whisky Experience – will be live on Facebook and you have an evening full of tales, stories and a special ‘Rabbie Burns’ cocktail to look forward to.

Let us know if you plan to celebrate Burns night at home this year, and if you plan to join in one of the digital events – we would love to hear about it in the comments!

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