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Prestonfield House, Edinburgh


Celebrating Burns Night

What day of the year combines haggis, whisky and poetry with lots of fun and laughter? Burns Night of course!

What is Burns Night?

Burns Night marks the anniversary of the poet Robert Burns’ birth, one of our most famous and celebrated Scots.

When is Burns Night?

Given that Robert Burns was born on 25th January 1759, Burns Night takes place on 25th January each year. Many mark the occasion by going to a Burns supper

What is a Burns supper?

Burns Supper addressing haggis

Held throughout the world on Burns Night (or on an evening close to it) a traditional Burns supper is an evening event that celebrates Robert Burns’ life and work.

How did the Burns supper begin?

Piping haggis Burns Supper

The first Burns supper was held in July 1801 when nine of Burns’ close friends got together to mark the fifth anniversary of their friend’s death. Taking place at Burns Cottage in Alloway, the night included a tasty meal (haggis, of course!), performances of Burns’ work and a speech in honour of the great Bard (now known as the Immortal Memory). The night was such a resounding success they decided to hold it again (this time in honour of Rabbie’s birthday), beginning the tradition we still enjoy to this day.

What happens at a Burns supper?

Toasting Haggis Burns Supper

Everyone enjoys a hearty Burns Night meal (which includes haggis, neeps and tatties, rounded off with drams of whisky), some of Burns’ poems and songs are recited and tributes are made to the great Bard.

Each Burns supper is individual, but the running order normally goes something like this:

  1. To start – everyone gathers, the host says a few words, everyone sits and the Selkirk Grace is said.
  2. The meal – the starter is served, the haggis is piped in, the host performs the famous Burns Night haggis poem Address to a Haggis, everyone toasts the haggis and the main meal is served, followed by dessert.
  3. After the meal – the first Burns recital is performed after Burns Night food, the Immortal Memory (the main tribute speech to Burns) is given, the second Burns recital is performed, then there’s a Toast to the Lassies, followed by a Reply to the Toast to the Lassies, before the final Burns recital is performed.
  4. To end the night – the host gives a vote of thanks, everyone stands and sings Auld Lang Syne, crossing their arms and joining hands at the line ‘And there's a hand, my trusty fere!’.

Delivering Burns Night poems at a Burns Supper? Get tips from Alasdair Hutton of the Guild of Burns Speakers in our videos below!

Join a Burns supper

Many restaurants across Scotland host formal Burns suppers or you could join a Burns club near you to enjoy events throughout the year, as well as the annual Burns supper. The Robert Burns World Federation lists more than 250 Burns clubs worldwide, or check out our Burns Night 2023 Events guide.

Hold your own Burns supper

A Burns Supper would not be a Burns Supper without a good helping of some traditional Scottish cuisine, accompanied by a few drams of fine Scotch whisky. Why not try a starter of Scotch broth or cullen skink? This will be followed of course by a main course of haggis, neeps and tatties. Then for dessert you could try cranachan or clootie dumplings.

What are the best Burns Night haggis recipes?

Haggis, neeps and tatties is a classic main course for a Burns Supper, sometimes people have haggis starters such as deep fried haggis bonbons! Check out our dedicated haggis page to find out all you need to know about this wonderful dish.

Are there any traditional Burns Night desserts?

Cranachan, Clootie Dumplings and a traditional cheese board are often served on Burns Night.

Find the ideal Burns Night whisky

It wouldn't be Burns Night without a wee dram! Whether you like peaty whiskies from Islay or golden Speyside malts, it's the perfect drink to celebrate Scotland's national bard. Find out more about whisky.

Burns Night Party Ideas

Hold a quiz, play an epic Scottish Spotify playlist, add a ceilidh, include a treasure hunt – we don’t think Robert Burns would mind you making his birthday your own, as long as you’re having fun!

What are the most popular Burns Night songs?

Burns' poems and songs have the unique power to entertain and touch your heart at the same time. Find out more about Robert Burns' famous songs and poems.

Where is the best place to find Burns Night music?

Check out our Spotify playlist of Burns Night music! It's a good one.

Are there any traditional Burns Night games?

You could do a hunt for the haggis game on Burns Night where guests search for a furry handmade haggis! An impromptu jamming session could be good too, if there are any musicians present.

How to plan a Burns Night quiz

Find out lots of facts and trivia about the man himself for the ultimate Burns quiz night. Choose a host and ask participants to write their answers down on pieces of paper. Offer a wee prize to the winning player or team - perhaps a miniature bottle of whisky!