Burns Night – Stabbing the Haggis


Burns Night is the traditional celebration of Scotland’s most famous poet, Robert Burns. It has been celebrated since the year after Robert Burns died, on his Birthday 25th January 1801.

It is customary for guests to be piped in to the Dining Room when the Host is ready for everyone to take their places. The Piper leads everyone in, usually followed by the Host (and hostess, if the dinner is for both sexes).

A traditional Grace written by Burns, said to have been delivered at a meal hosted by the Earl of Selkirk is called The Selkirk Grace. This will be said before the starter: ‘Some hae meat and canna eat/ And some wad eat that want it;/But we hae meat, and we can eat,/Sae let the Lord be thankit.’
 It is traditional for the Haggis to be carried in by the chef as the main course, accompanied by the Piper and paraded around the tables before being presented to the Host. Here the Host stands and fills quaich (a two handles Scottish whisky cup) with whisky which he toasts the chef with, before refilling the quaich and presenting it to the chef to drink. Often the Piper is also presented with a quaich of whisky.
On Each occasion a Haggis is ‘addressed’ and, usually with a recitation of Burns ‘Ode to a Haggis’ and stabbed at the appropriate part of the poem. The haggis is then served out to everyone  and eaten with neeps and tatties (turnip and mashed potato), often accompanied by malt whisky (as Haggis is quite dry!). A toast is given and wine and whisky are drunk – Robert Burns was partial to drinking!
The main speaker is introduced and gives a speech championing Burns’ legacy. Full of wit and praise for not just Burns’ work but his life and country as a whole and often incorporating his love and lust for women as well as debauched dinners and drinking. The speech ends with a toast to the bard’s immortal memory.

It is traditional to recite Burns poems and songs, and in more modern times there is a ‘toast to the lasses’ with appropriate leering lechery, and a return ‘toast to the laddies’ by one of the ladies, often in mocking admiration of the male physique and prowess. Often, in a Keilidh style, there is singing and Scottish Reeling.
The Evening ends with ‘Auld Land Syne’: the whole song is a nostalgic view of the importance of friendship across the years. It was regularly sung as a “parting song” at social events in Burns’s own day.’ Burns’ version of this song is one of several; it’s a folk song simply recorded, tweaked and published by Burns, not originally penned by him directly, but it has become a favourite parting song at dinners, weddings and parties, Hogmanay, St Andrew’s Dinners and Burns Suppers worldwide. 

Burns Night – Stabbing the Haggis
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