To celebrate the birthday of the country’s best-known poet, Rabbie Burns (1759–96), Scots all over the world gather together for a Burns Supper on January 25. Strictly speaking, a piper should greet the guests until everyone is seated ready to hear the first bit of Burns’ poetry, 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.

At this point the star attraction of the evening, the haggis, is piped in on a silver platter, after which someone reads out Burns’s Ode to a Haggis, beginning with the immortal line, “Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face/Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race!”. During the recitation, the reader raises a knife (“His knife see Rustic-labour dight”), pierces the haggis, allowing the tasty gore to spill out (“trenching its gushing entrails”), and then toasts the haggis with the final line (“Gie her a Haggis!”). After everyone has tucked into their haggis, tatties and neaps, someone gives a paean to the life of Burns along with more of his poetry. A male guest then has to give a speech in which women are praised (often ironically) through selective quotations from Burns, ending in a Toast to the Lassies. This is followed by a (usually scathing) reply from one of the Lassies, again through judicious use of Burns’s quotes. Finally, there’s a stirring rendition of Burns’s poem, Auld Lang Syne, to the familiar tune.

Essentials

Everything you need to know before you set off.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Scotland features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

8 alternative UK winter breaks

8 alternative UK winter breaks

The UK gets pretty grim during the winter, with its dark, early nights and splutteringly cold weather. But if you can’t wait until spring to start having fun …

07 Nov 2016 • Greg Dickinson insert_drive_file Article
8 spectacular remote places in Scotland

8 spectacular remote places in Scotland

Scotland’s seven cities offer myriad urban charms, but if you want to really get to the heart of a complex country that makes up 69% of the UK coastline and o…

19 Sep 2016 • Robin McKelvie videocam Video
Video: 5 reasons to road trip Scotland

Video: 5 reasons to road trip Scotland

Scotland is undeniably beautiful. From famous landscapes like Glen Coe and Loch Ness to unheard of islands scattered off the far reaches of the Highlands, there…

05 Sep 2016 • Rough Guides Editors videocam Video
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month