/ The Edinburgh Guide
Edinburgh — By Andy Hayes on January 23, 2010 at 7:16 am

Robert Burns and The Burns Supper

It’s that time of year again – time for burns supper!  If you have no idea what is, read on, because it’s another one of Scotland’s weird and wonderful annual traditions.

Introducing Robert Burns

You already know Robert Burns and just don’t realise it  - he’s a famous Scottish poet who wrote that weird song everyone sings on New Year’s Eve, Auld Lang Syne.  He is one of Scotland’s most beloved characters; last year, he was voted the Greatest Scot of All Time by a poll on STV.

Burns was born in Alloway, near the west coast of Scotland.  During his life he had a number of jobs, but all the while he always kept writing.  Perhaps he knew he was born to be a writer or perhaps he just loved doing it.

In 1786, his first works were officially published, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect and literary scholars say this has many of his best works.  Later that same year he moved to Edinburgh, where he increased his creative output with more songs, poems, and collaborations with other noteworthy artists at the time.

He only stayed here a couple of years before leaving, dying only a mere ten years later.  But his impact was obvious on many famed authors:  John Steinbeck, William Wadsworth, and even Bob Dylan have credited Burns as their muse.

The Burns Supper

Burns Support, celebrated on January 25th each year, is one of the more well-attended Scottish celebrations (perhaps due to the fact that there is food & drink involved).  Burns supper, believe it or not, is a very popular event in England as well as in America.  The suppers were originally held on July 21st on the day of his death, but they’re now on the 25th of January to honour his birthday.

In interest of brevity, I won’t post it here, but the highlight of any burns supper is the Address to the Haggis.  Here are the words, with convenient translation for those of you who don’t speak ‘auld Scots’ :)  After the guests gather around the table, the address of the haggis is recited, and as the poem finishes, a knife is taken to open up the haggis from its sheep’s stomach pouch.It’s normally done with a bit of a flourish, preferably by a kilted gentleman of course to really set the mood.

That’s not the que to sit down and eat.  There’s another toast, this time with whisky, to the haggis, and once you’ve done that, then everyone can be seated and starting to eat.  The meal served is haggis, neeps (mashed turnip, or swede in England), and mashed tatties.   Dessert is usually and assortment of typical Scottish treats, either cheese and oatcakes or cranachan, all followed by healthy amounts of whisky.  There aren’t any really special or amazing foods – just classic comfort foods fit to honour such an esteemed Scottish figure.

The evening closes with a traditional singing of Auld Lang Syne (and another splash of whisky, just to finish it off right).

Celebrating The Event

If you find yourself staying in Edinburgh for burns supper, there are a several venues offering burns supper though you can probably find one near you anywhere in the world.  Here are a couple Edinburgh suggestions:

Photos: public domain, Iain Farrell

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