The Vegware guide to celebrating a modern Burns Night
Christmas feels like forever ago. Spring is a long way away, and the end of January isn’t a traditionally cheerful time. Unless you follow the Scots and throw a party to rival Hogmanay on the 25th!
Burns Night is a celebration of the great Robert Burns, national hero and Scotland’s most beloved poet. It’s a great excuse to shake off those winter blues.
The first Burns Night was held on 25 January 1801. A group of nine friends and patrons came together to celebrate what would have been his 42nd birthday.
2022’s Burns Night is set to have a rather different feel, but that doesn’t have to mean that the festivities need be any less enjoyable or traditional.
Here are our top tips on how to make your Burns Supper an inclusive and modern affair:
1) Set the tone
Are you going to strictly adhere to traditions? Will your guests appreciate traditional bagpipe music? Do you want a dress code? Before deciding on anything, work out what sort of evening you want.
While there are many who believe there’s only one proper way to celebrate Burns Night, the most important thing is to have a good time. If a playlist of contemporary Scottish music is more appropriate to the atmosphere there’s certainly plenty to choose from!
To help you out we have produced our very own Vegware Burns Night playlist with a modern twist.
If you want to keep it traditional, we also have you covered with our This is Robert Burns playlist.
2) Pick your traditions
Contrary to what many people may believe, Burns Night is traditionally a very structured affair. There are set times for welcome addresses, toasts, food, and entertainment. If you’re not Scottish, or familiar with these traditions, it can be an intimidating schedule.
Instead, select activities that will suit your party and the preferences of your guests. Poetry is naturally considered particularly important though, so if there are any brave guests, encourage them to get up and recite some of Burns’ work. ‘My Love is a Red, Red Rose’ and ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ are firm favourites. Or, as host, take command of the Selkirk Grace as you serve dinner in a nod to the man who has inspired hundreds of years’ worth of parties.
The Selkirk Grace
Some Folk hae meat that canna eat,
And some can eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
So let the Lord be Thanket!
Of course, no Burns Night is complete without a rousing rendition of Auld Lang’s Syne, helped by an evening of whisky, which everyone should be familiar with.
3) Lay the table
Food should be central to the party. The star of the show is normally a haggis. In a traditional sit-down dinner, the haggis is piped in by bagpipes, toasted with a dram of whisky and pierced with a dagger before being eaten.
For a more modern take on proceedings why not create a Scottish tapas menu? Serve guests a trio of small servings that include all the Burns night favourites such as neeps and tatties (swede and potato), haggis with a drizzle of whisky sauce and cock-a-leekie soup.
If you can’t stomach (see what we did there!) the thought of Haggis then we have also thought of you with a Vegan Burns Night menu courtesy of BBC Good Food.
4) Know your whisky
If you’re hosting a Burns supper, then a nice whisky is a must. In fact, Robbie Burns knew all about whisky as he worked as an exciseman.
Burns Night wouldn’t be complete without whisky and no table is set without a good selection of drams.
Add a modern twist by serving a flute of different varieties ranging from strong, peaty Scotch to those with lighter palates.
Here are some of our personal favourites:
- Caol Ila 12 – A smoky Islay beast
- Highland Park 12 – from Orkney
- Fettercairn 12 – Belter Highland whisky, nice and heathery.
- Cragganmore 12 – Classic woody speyside malt
- Ardbeg 10 – Another great smoky number
5) Make merry
At the core of any Burns Night is the entertainment. The most popular is probably the famous Toast to the Lassies and Reply to the Toast to the Lassies. Usually incorporating quotes from Burns, these are comical monologues, light-hearted and positive.
Introduce a modern version of this to your night with lassies vs laddies’ games and competitions. The whole point of Burns Night to have an amazing time so fun should be at the heart of all your preparations.