Whisky! Clootie dumplings… and a bit more whisky! Burns night is a celebration of the great Scottish poet, Robert Burns. You don’t have to be Scottish or have your own family tartan to celebrate! a Burns admirer or would just like to try some haggis and wear a kilt, City Savvy Luxembourg has all the information you need to help celebrate in Luxembourg! Och aye!
Who was Robert Burns anyway?
Poet, philanderer and champion of liberty and social justice, Robert Burns (Rabbie Burns in Scotland) was a pioneer of the Romantic movement. After his death, he became a cultural icon in Scotland, upon whose literature he has a profound influence. As well as making original compositions, Burns also collected folk songs from across Scotland, often revising or adapting them and they live on today.
What do you have in common with him?
The sixth Baron Byron was a notorious slut with quite the reputation. He slept his way through Europe living the dream all the while guzzling whisky, (picking up gonorrhea and syphilis along the way…as you do). Ok so maybe you don’t have so much in common with him other than your love of poetry? The rumour was he shagged his own sister…ok perhaps the commonalities end with poetry. Although, wait! He loved animals. Apparently, he had a rather large number of animals when he lived as an expat, including three monkeys, five peacocks, a crow, an Egyptian crane and an eagle, which all lived inside his house.
Below are a few immortal lines from the ‘Bard of Scotland’:
The best laid schemes o’ mice and men
Gang aft a-gley;
And leave us naught but grief and pain
For promised joy.
To a Mouse, st. 7 (1785)
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to min’?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o’ auld lang syne?
Auld Lang Syne, st. 1 (1788)
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp,
The man’s the gowd for a’ that.
A Man’s A Man For A’ That, st. 1 (1795)
Oh, my Luve is like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June.
O, my Luve is like the melodie,
That’s sweetly played in tune.
A Red, Red Rose, st. 1 (1794)
What is Burns Night?
St. Andrew’s Day is Scotland’s official national day, but Burns Night is often a bigger event in households. It’s celebrated on Burns’ birthday, 25th January, differing little in format from the very first one, held by his friends, in 1802. They decided to hold a grand dinner, or supper, in honour of the man who had done so much for Scottish literature, reading his best works out to each other in memory. This has been replicated through the years by Scots around the world, partly as a point of national pride.
Sounds great – where can I celebrate?
Your best bet is usually http://www.scottishdancing.lu/ as they have their ear to the ground.
The City Savvy guide to hosting your own Burns night
Suppers will vary slightly in the order and ceremony, but this is our guide to a Burns Supper; follow this and you won’t be far wrong! A more formal Burns Night ceremony may require a black tie dress code of dinner jacket and bow tie or a kilt or Highland dress for the men and evening dress for the ladies. At the very least, it is expected that every guest will wear an article of tartan clothing such as a tartan tie, tartan skirt, tartan trousers or even tartan socks or tartan tights.
The running order
Everyone is shown to their seats, the more important guests being serenaded by bagpipes.
The Selkirk Grace
Whilst visiting the Earl of Selkirk, Robert Burn recited an old version of a traditional Scottish grace known as the ‘Galloway Grace’ or the ‘Covenanter’s Grace’, which he changed to his style of recital and writing. The guests were impressed by this new Scottish toast and Burns published it as the ‘Selkirk Grace’ in their honour. Since then it has been said by many a Scots family before formal and informal meals, but especially on this night of nights.
Some hae meat and canna eat,
and some wad eat that want it,
but we hae meat and we can eat,
and sae the Lord be thankit.
Burns Night Menu
For starters, it’s a good idea to serve a a Scottish soup such as Scotch Broth, Potato Soup or Cock-a-Leekie Soup before the main event of the evening: the Haggis! Don’t feel like making your own- no judgment- head over to Home from Home in Strassen, they’ve got Haggis in stock!
A formal Burns Supper would consist of the haggis being ‘piped’ into the room by a Pipe Major on bagpipes, whilst the guests stand up as a sign of respect. It is usually brought in by the cook, who leads the way to the host’s table, where the haggis is laid down. Burns’ Address To A Haggis is then read to the appreciative guests. There are several key words which signify when the speaker should cut into the haggis. So when ‘His knife see rustic Labour dight’ is recited, the haggis cutting knife is raised; with the words ‘An’ cut you up wi’ ready sleight’, the knife is lowered:
Address to a Haggis
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race!
Aboon them a’ yet tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’a grace
As lang’s my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin was 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 sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
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;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckles as wither’d rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro’ blody 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 mak it whissle;
An’ legs an’ arms, an’ hands will sned,
Like taps o’ trissle.
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!
A toast is then proposed to the haggis with Scotch whisky before the company can sit down to their meal. The haggis is traditionally served with mashed potatoes (tatties) and mashed turnips (neeps).
Dessert should also use Scottish ingredients; perhaps Cranachan, a mixture of whipped cream, whisky, honey (preferably heather honey), and fresh raspberries with toasted oatmeal soaked overnight in a little whisky. A traditional way to serve cranachan is to bring dishes of each ingredient to the table, so that each person can assemble their dessert to taste. Another popular Burns night dessert is Tipsy Laird, a whisky trifle made up of layers of custard, fruit, sponge cake, fruit juice or jelly and whipped cream.
Whichever you go for, don’t forget to serve oatcakes and cheese afterwards before serving some coffee for the guests to imbibe whilst listening to the various speeches.
Throughout the meal, there will have been a good amount of Scottish whisky (uisge beatha or ‘water of life’, as it’s known) drunk. But this is where the drinking gets serious, in a number of toasts:
It is a great honour to be asked to propose the Immortal Memory speech and toast. Generally, it is about the importance of Robert Burns to Scotland and it should truly inspire each guest to want to continue reading his works when they get home.
The host will thank the previous speaker and raise some points on his Immortal Memory speech.
Toast to the Lassies
This was originally intended as a thank you on behalf of the men to the women who had cooked the meal, but has evolved into much more. Burns was a great one for the ladies and this toast should be a humorous short speech on the ways of women, bearing in mind that they will get to reply! After this the speaker raises his glass, the men in the room stand, and the speaker says “Tae The Lassies!” and a dram of whisky is drunk.
Toast to the Laddies
The women now have an opportunity to reply, with one speaker chosen to present a light-hearted look at the ways of men. After this, the speaker raises her glass, the women in the room stand, and the speaker says “Tae The Laddies!” and yet another dram of whisky is drunk. Quite often the speakers giving this toast and the previous one will collaborate so that the two toasts complement each other.
There may be more toasts and speeches and works by Burns read before the host brings the event to a close by calling on one of the guests to give a vote of thanks. After this, everyone is asked to stand, join hands and sing Auld Lang Syne, bringing the evening to an end.
*If you know of any other Burns Night Celebrations in Luxembourg, please add the details in the comments box below. Bring a Scottish twinkle into the Duchy’s night sky!