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Burns Night is the 25th January – What is it?

Ye’ve a heard o Rabbie Burns, the bard o Auld Lang Syne fame haven’t ye?

I thought we all did.  His best known song gets pulled out every Burns Night and New Years Eve as we all link arms and sing the popular year-end anthem.

We’ve visited the birthplace of Robert Burns but sadly we forgot our camera and have nothing to show for it.  We’re not allowed to take photographs inside anyway, so all you are missing are some outside ones.

Every year, on the 25th January, we celebrate his birthday, all around the world.  People get dressed up in tartan kilts, often birl to the tunes of ceilidh music and sit through an ode to the haggis before it’s served.   It’s celebrated in massive style in some places, and in others, it’s simply a boozy knees up or a quiet meal for the family.   The traditional way to celebrate is the eating of haggis, neeps and tatties, washed down with Scotch Whisky and works of the Bard being read out to the attendees.

Haggis, Neeps and Tatties

Having watched an ode to the haggis at my sons special school, I found the after effects to be a traumatic event as he spent a week trying to get his hands on the big kitchen knives, similar to those the storyteller swathed above her head and across the front of her body.  It was a bad choice of celebration and rather strange to see a woman brandishing knives in front of kids we try to keep away from sharp implements.

My kids tend to celebrate in school, so we do little more than have haggis, neeps and tatties of some kind for tea.  It’s customary to recite some of the words of the bard, so a wee bit of poetry with that dram of whisky (or irn bru for kids and non drinkers) to wash down that easily eaten food.

Burns night is all about cameraderie, friendship, fun, and laughter.  Burns suppers are very popular, and up here, they seem to be everywhere.  There is little chance of avoiding hearing about, taking part, or even just smiling at the songs, poetry and reverence that Robert Burns name coaxes from people.  Burns night is meant to be all about “taking part.”  It’s Scotland, and we don’t expect guests to sit back and wait to be entertained.  Everyone is responsible for making it a good, nay great experience for everyone else.    Even if it means you borrow a poetry book from your host, get involved.  You’ll be glad you did.

Robert Burns is often spoken about as Scotland’s favourite son and the format changes little.  After the general welcome and address, the Selkirk Grace is usually said.  From there, the ode to the haggis with the cutting and serving and then people can start to eat.   For the Selkirk Grace, the story goes that on a visit to St. Mary’s Isle, he was asked to say grace at dinner.  The quick lines he came up with are now known as the Selkirk Grace and are as follows:

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 thanket.
Source (Wikipedia)

After the meal come the literary readings, and at the end of it all – everyone usually sings “Auld Lang Syne.”

If you’ve never been to a Burns Supper and you get an invite, make sure you go.  You will enjoy it if you get involved.  Everyone should go to at least one.


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10 Tips For Burns Night, any Night on a Budget

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Haggis, Neeps and Tatties

Haggis, Neeps and Tatties are not just for Burns Night.

Burns Nights can be so much fun – there’s merriment, celebration, great food, dancing, poetry, singing… and maybe just a dash of whisky, but we don’t have to limit it just to the birthday of the bard.

If you’ve had the honour of hosting a Burns Supper, you’ll know there is a lot to organise, and perhaps a lot to pay for too, but Burns Night fare is good enough for any dinner party.

So how can you throw an enjoyable Burns Supper, any night, without blowing your budget?

Here are ten tips that could help you.

  1. Shopping around for your haggis could reap you benefits and work out much cheaper in the long run.  You could get several haggis cheaper than one hefty one and there may be some good deals on.
  2. Consider buying a smaller haggis and serving it as a starter with a smaller serving of neeps and tatties.  Then serve something less expensive – like a good value beef joint or whole fish – for the main.
  3. If you buy a big haggis, don’t waste the leftovers. Keep it and make some haggis-based dishes for the rest of the week – for example haggis lasagne.  Or serve some the next day in a Scottish breakfast if you have guests who stay over.
  4. Buy cheaper whisky and use it to make a pitcher of Hot Toddy. Your guests are unlikely to taste the difference – especially as the night goes on!
  5. Encourage guests to bring their own drinks – especially if they’re quite particular about their brand of Scotch.
  6. Propose that guests bring their own starters or desserts – to cut down on preparation time and cost for you, and to give the supper more diversity.
  7. For next year, consider having your Burns Nights later – some retailers may bring down the price of any leftover Burns Night food on their shelves after the 25th January.
  8. Grow your own potatoes and turnips.  You’ve plenty of time to prepare for 2014.  Here’s how to grow potatoes and turnips. A good crop will last you for Burns Night and beyond.
  9. A Burns Supper wouldn’t be complete without songs and poems from Robbie Burns himself. has a timetable for the evening – including links to the essential poems and songs – for free.
  10. If you’d like your singers, speakers and other entertainers to read from a book, you could borrow one from your local library.

by the Debt Advisory Centre Scotland.  We hope you had a great Burns Night last week and will continue to enjoy haggis throughout the next year as one of your staple foods!

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An alternative Burns Night Supper – Slow cooked mince, neeps and tatties.

In Scotland, we all know it’s the birthday of the Bard coming up.  If you don’t know who – it’s Rabbie Burns, and we celebrate it on the 25th January every year, so Friday night will be haggis night in many  households around the world.   Robert Burns was a poet who is now looked upon as being the national poet of Scotland.   His birthday is celebrated by both Scots and Non Scots worldwide.

Our children will have Burns celebrations at schools, and many a charity function will be held in his name on Friday night.  I’ll never forget a local poet giving a lament to the haggis a few years ago at a special school, where the lady poet was swinging huge kitchen knives above her head before she ripped the haggis open ceremonially.

A logistical nightmare, our knives had to all be locked away forever after that one.  At least with me being there, I knew where the new-found fascination for knives came from.  I pity the parents of other kids who had no idea why their kids would suddenly have taken to brandishing knives above their heads like daggers with a swagger!

Back to the cooking…

The traditional dish is haggis, neeps (turnips) and tatties.

There are vegetarian versions of haggis, but not everyone likes the meat or the vegetarian options as they can be quite spicy.

As an alternative, this weekend, we did a trial run of slow cooked mince with meat from Andrew Gordon Butchery and Fine Foods and the new Neeps & Tatties from the Scotty Brand range.

As always in our house – anything from the slow cooker gets the thumbs up from me for ease – and always tastes fabulous.

Scotty Brand Neeps & Tatties

Slow Cooked Mince, Neeps & Tatties. Alternative Burns Night Supper

Lesley S Smith
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 10 minutes
Course Mains
Servings 6 - 8


  • 1 kg Lean Steak Mince
  • 1 Large Onion Chopped
  • 1 kg Neeps & Tatties
  • Stock Pot
  • 500 g Carrots Washed, scraped and chopped or sliced.
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cornflour


  • Switch on the slow cooker to high to warm up.
  • Brown the mince with the chopped onion on a thick bottomed pan.
  • Add the mince and onion to the slow cooker. Add in the neeps, tatties and carrots. Add boiling water to almost the top of your ingredients.
  • Add a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper and a stock cube, or stock pot if you prefer a stronger taste.
  • Put the lid on and leave for 8 hours on low, or 4 hours on high.
  • If you want to thicken your hotpot, half an hour before the end of cooking, mix up cornflour with cold water and mix to a smooth paste. Add to your hotpot and fold in until it thickens. If you over thicken, add a little boiling water to fix it.
  • Serve.



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“Burns Nicht” (Doric Poem for Robert Burns “Burns Night”)

Hive ye iver wonnered fit thon Burns Nicht wis a aboot, an fit they did.  Read oan fir hoo them that likes tae celebrate Rabbie Burns birthday wi a supper dae it.

Eence mair comes roon the 25th, the birthday o the baird
Fir Rabbie’s supper eence agin, the tartan clamored laird
A ower the warld, folk gaither wi freens, an beat thon Selkirk grace
Tae celebrate a man o words, a poet fu o grace

We start wi soup, an hud oor weesht, afor mair grub is seen
The chunter soonds the warning, thit the haggis is oan its wye
An oan a platter, fit fir a king, the beast is piped oan in
Tae an address, an pomp worthwhile, is slit frae end tae end

Wi neeps n tatties, the dish doled oot, an a dram o whiskey rare
We’ll hae a toast, tae the Queen, an then’s oor Rabbies turn
Mair thanks tae a, fa did the wirk, tae mak a crackin nicht
An then them lads and lasses joke, wi jibes tae ane an a

An efter a them tales are ower, the dancin micht begin
Or mebbe jist a tale or twa, lik Tam o Shanter playin
An fan its ower we’ll a gie thanks, and link oor airms a hither
Tae pay respects an sing a roon o Auld Lang Syne thigither

Author: Lesley S Smith