January may seem like a 31-day long stretch of misery, but for one day of the month, there’s a reason to celebrate.

This year, Burns Night falls on January 25, and for those of us who don’t know (or don’t know anyone who’s Scottish), it’s a night for eating, drinking and celebrating.

And there is no shortage of activities you can participate in to mark the evening and commemorate Robert Burns – with the city’s restaurants and boozers offering a chance for everyone to soak up some Scottish culture.


Who was Robert Burns?

Burns was an 18th century Scottish poet and part of the Romantics literary movement. He is widely regarded as the country’s national poet. Burns’ works were written in both Scots and English, which meant more people could read and understand his writing.

Perhaps Burns’ most well-known work is Auld Lang Syne – which is now put to music and traditionally sung on New Year’s Eve.

How do people celebrate Burns Night?

Usually, people tend to sit down for a home-cooked haggis dinner washed down by a glass of whisky. Traditionally, guests will stand as the haggis is brought to the table before the Address to a Haggis is read out (a Robert Burns poem).

What is the Address to a Haggis?

Traditionally, the address happens before the meal of haggis, neeps and tatties is eaten.

Guests will stand as the haggis is brought to the table before an eight-verse poem in honour of the food is recited.

The ode, called Address to a Haggis, was written by Robert Burns in 1787 and celebrates all that is good about haggis.

The poem immortalised haggis as the “great chieftan of the sausage race”, and cemented its reputation as a great Scottish food.

The haggis dinner tends to be accompanied by tatties and neeps (potatoes and swede).

The first Burns Night celebration was held on July 21, 1801, five years after Robert Burns’ death. Since then, the tradition has been upheld around the date of Burns’ birthday. 

After Robert “Rabbie” Burns died in 1796, his friends organised a Burns Supper to remember him by.

During this first supper, they recited Burns’ famous haggis verse, thereby creating the custom still known to this day.

How to address your 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 worthy o’ a grace

As lang’s my arm.

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 dight,

An cut you up wi ready slight,

Trenching your gushing entrails bright,

Like onie ditch;

And then, O what a glorious sight,

Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:

Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,

Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve

Are bent like drums;

The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,

‘Bethankit’ hums.

Is there that owre 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 owre 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 walie nieve a blade,

He’ll make it whissle;

An legs an arms, an heads will sned,

Like taps o thrissle.

Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,

And dish them out their bill o fare,

Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware

That jaups in luggies:

But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,

Gie her a Haggis

Modern translation

Good luck to you and your honest, plump face,

Great chieftain of the sausage race!

Above them all you take your place,

Stomach, tripe, or intestines:

Well are you worthy of a grace

As long as my arm.

The groaning trencher there you fill,

Your buttocks like a distant hill,

Your pin would help to mend a mill

In time of need,

While through your pores the dews distill

Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour wipe,

And cut you up with ready slight,

Trenching your gushing entrails bright,

Like any ditch;

And then, O what a glorious sight,

Warm steaming, rich!

Then spoon for spoon, the stretch and strive:

Devil take the hindmost, on they drive,

Till all their well swollen bellies by-and-by

Are bent like drums;

Then old head of the table, most like to burst, 

Robert Burns (Getty)

‘The grace!’ hums.

Is there that over his French ragout,

Or olio that would sicken a sow,

Or fricassee would make her vomit

With perfect disgust,

Looks down with sneering, scornful view

On such a dinner?

Poor devil! see him over his trash,

As feeble as a withered rush,

His thin legs a good whip-lash,

His fist a nut;

Through bloody flood or field to dash,

O how unfit.

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,

The trembling earth resounds his tread,

Clap in his ample fist a blade,

He’ll make it whistle;

And legs, and arms, and heads will cut off

Like the heads of thistles.

You powers, who make mankind your care,

And dish them out their bill of fare,

Old Scotland wants no watery stuff,

That splashes in small wooden dishes;

But if you wish her grateful prayer, 

Give her [Scotland] a Haggis!



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