Weird Burns Night traditions you never knew…

Weird Burns Night traditions you never knew…

Posted 25th January

From addressing the haggis to the Selkirk Grace, we bet you've never heard of these strange Burns Night traditions…


You may think you haven't come across Robert Burns before, but trust us, you definitely have!

Whether you blunder through his historic words in Auld Lang Syne on New Year's Eve, or have a soft spot for haggis, Robert Burns' works have a huge following all over the world. According to the Independent, it's even rumoured that Michael Jackson based his famous Thriller music video on Burns' poem Tam o' Shanter!

But what actually happens on Burns Night?

According to the Alexandria Burns Club, there are many traditions that have to be adhered to in order to create a true Burns supper…


1. Introduction of the top table

Guests must arrive on time and be seated for the arrival of those at the top table. Guests must then rise as the chairman leads in the other members of the top table before welcoming everyone to the evening and introducing all those now seated.


2. The Selkirk Grace

Next on the agenda is the Selkirk Grace – a poem which was attributed to Burns after he recited a version at a dinner hosted by the Earl of Selkirk.

The Selkirk Grace:

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.


3. Address to the haggis

You read that right. No burns night is complete without the famous addressing of the haggis.

Normally a bagpiper will play as the chef enters with the haggis (on a silver platter if you're fancy). The haggis is then paraded through the guests as they all do a traditional slow hand clap. It's then placed at the top table, in front of the person who will reciting the address To a Haggis.

To see the full version of the poem, click here!

When the reader gets to the third verse…

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

…the speaker will then pierce the haggis with a large knife and down a dram with the chef and the piper.


4. The Loyal Toast

Next on the agenda is a toast to the current monarch. The audience are asked to be upstanding with the top table and toast the Queen.

If things are really formal, the gentlemen will have been required to keep their jackets on until this point. On these occasions the chairman will announce, "Gentleman, you may now remove your jackets."


5. The supper

The meal is then served and the assembled guests tuck in to that delicious haggis. When the meal is done the guests often retire to another room while the tables are cleared in preparation for the more formal proceedings.


6. The Immortal Memory tribute

It's tradition after the supper to conduct the Immortal Memory tribute. This is a formal and personal tribute to Robert Burns from an invited speaker. This tribute is normally lengthy and requires a fair bit of preparation.

Typically an Immortal Memory speech will last about 20 to 25 minutes, sometimes more!


7. Burns songs

With the speeches over, it's time to get the party started as singers are invited to perform songs by Robert Burns during the evening.


8. Toast to the Lassies

It's time to shine a spotlight on the ladies in the room with the toast to the lassies!

This speech normally lasts for around 15 minutes speech and is 100% about women and their influence and effect on men. If women are present, the men rise and toast them at the end of the speech and there is normally a reply by one of the ladies who are present.


9. The readings

There will normally be about four readings of Burns's work at a Burns supper – Tam o' Shanter is always popular. Some readers even dress in costume for the reading!


10. The vote of thanks

The evening has finally come to an end, therefore the vote of thanks is in order.

The speaker will take their time in thanking those who have come and contributed to the evening's events before the informal celebrations continue into the wee sma' hours!

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