There are few celebrations that brings Scottish folk together like a good Burns Night Supper. From large scale events to smaller gatherings of family and friends, it’s a time for enjoying Scottish traditions as well as remembering the life and works of National Bard on his birthday – the 25th January.

So, if you’re thinking of hosting your own Burns Supper this year, here’s the standard order of proceedings:

Piping in the guests

For larger Burns Supper events, this would normally be done by a real live piper, but that’s a big ask if you’ve just got the neighbours coming round – unless one of you has a cousin with a set of bagpipes. Playing some mood-setting Scottish music from a CD – or a Burns Night playlist on Spotify - will do just fine.

Chairman’s welcome

The host should say a few words here, welcoming everyone to the Burns Supper.

The Selkirk Grace

Even if you don’t normally say grace before a meal, you certainly should on Burns Night:

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.

Piping in the haggis

As with the arrival of the guests, there needs to be some traditional Scottish music to welcome an even more important guest – the haggis. The host should then recite Address to a Haggis:

At the end of the poem, there should be a toast to the haggis, then it’s time to eat!

The meal

For a starter, soup is normally served, which should ideally be a Scots broth, cullen skink or cock-a-leekie. The main course will be haggis, neeps & tatties, with clootie dumpling – see below for a recipe for this - for pudding. After this, you can serve a cheeseboard with oatcakes and tea and coffee, while tradition dictates that there should be plenty of whisky, wine and ale available.

Something to take into consideration though is who you’re inviting and what their dietary requirements are, especially if they might be taking part in Veganuary or Dry January or any of the other popular challenges at this time of year. Vegetarian Haggis is available.

The entertainment

After the meal it’s time for entertainment at a big formal supper, but at your smaller celebration this could be a time for anyone who wants to recite or sing their favourite Burns poem or song. There’s no pressure!

The immortal memory

If you have a Burns fanatic coming to your supper, this is their chance to really shine, delivering a lively keynote speech on the life and times of the great poet, followed by the toast - to the immortal memory of Robert Burns!

More entertainment and toasts

If you have any more guests who want to show off their Burns-related talents, there’s more opportunities as the night progresses. There’s also the Toast to the Lassies, a humorous celebration of the female guests at the supper, and their opportunity to respond in the Reply to the Toast to the Lassies.

Vote of thanks and Auld Lang Syne

As the evening draws to a close, there’s just time for the host to stand up and thank everyone for coming, before uniting all the guests in one last burst of Auld Lang Syne. And a great night will have been had by all!

Clootie Dumpling recipe

For this you’ll need:

125 grams suet
250 grams plain flour
125 grams oatmeal
125 grams sultanas
125 grams currants
1 tablespoon golden syrup
75 grams sugar
2 eggs (lightly beaten)
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons milk

  1. In a large baking bowl, rub the suet into the flour and add the oatmeal, baking powder, sugar, sultanas, dried currants, ginger, and cinnamon.
  2. Stir well and then add in the beaten eggs and golden syrup.
  3. Stir in the milk to bind the ingredients together, creating a firm dough.
  4. Prepare the ‘clootie cloth’ by pouring boiling water over it, ringing it out and sprinkling it with flour.
  5. Place the mixture into the centre of the cloth and tie it together with some room for the dumpling to expand.
  6. Place a saucer upside down into a large pot and place the dumpling in the cloth on top. Cover it with boiling water and a lit and simmer for three hours.
  7. Once cooked, remove the dumpling, take off the cloth and sprinkle with caster sugar.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes at 100C.
  9. Slice and serve your clootie dumpling with ice cream or custard.

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