We all know January is a long month and toward the end most of us are ready to get off the wagon and have some fun! If you need an excuse for this, then why not host a Burns evening around 25th January!
I can strongly recommend this pick-me-up on a miserable January night. You don’t have to be Scottish; you don’t even need Scottish relatives (although many of us will have claim to Scottish blood somewhere up the line) so just get on board with the event.
A Burns supper is a celebration of the life of poet Robert Burns, author of many Scottish poems. The annual event was started by Robbie’s friends on the 5th anniversary of his death in 1801 and has since been a yearly event that has grown and grown and is generally held on his birthday, 25th January every year.
True Burns suppers are very formal affairs and following tradition, this will involve a piper who not only greets guests but plays a key role in ‘piping in the haggis’! This is followed by an 8 verse Burns poem known as ‘Addressing the Haggis!’ Throughout the evening there are many toasts, an address to the ‘Lassies’, a reply to the ‘Laddies’ and of course readings of Robert Burn’s poems. It can of course be much less formal and you can put your own spin on this as I do!
We don’t have a piper in-house so a bit of Scottish music adds atmosphere (which later on becomes an array of more recent Scottish singers and bands!). We do attempt to read the address to the haggis – always fun to ask a guest to join in! If nothing else you must get to the third verse ‘His knife see rustic Labour dicht ‘ this is traditionally when the one making the address would plunge a sword into the haggis……if you don’t have a family sword hanging over your fire place then a sharp kitchen knife will do!
Haggis, neeps and tatties (carrots, turnips and mashed potato) combined is probably one of the cheapest and tastiest entertaining suppers available…..very pleasing if you are on an austerity January plan (like me)! Don’t worry too much about what is in haggis; because those with sensitive appetites might opt out, sometimes ignorance is just bliss. So embrace the event, it does taste great but then maybe that’s my Scottish blood kicking in. Add a simple dessert – anything that involves biscuit or sponge can pass off as a Scottish pudding and then follow with cheese, switching your crackers for oat cakes of course!
If you have a conservatory or orangery with conservatory dining furniture this would be a perfect setting. I string up tartan bunting; have thistle arrangements and lots of candles. The brightly coloured tartan bunting adds a welcome splash after the severity of losing all our Christmas decs. The bunting reflects in all the large glass windows and stays up until spring arrives!
Importantly, don’t forget supplies of a good malt on hand – essential for those wanting to enjoy a few wee drams (it’s also fine to pour onto the haggis). For those that don’t like whisky then red wine is a perfect alternative. And finally, depending on how happy and full you are all feeling, for true tradition you can finish off with ‘Auld Lang Syne’. Happy January!