How Burns Suppers are celebrated around the world

With Robert Burns’ most famous ditty Auld Lang Syne paying tribute to old and absent friends, and given the historically far-flung Scottish diaspora, it’s hardly surprising that expat Scots and those of Scottish descent have taken the Burns Night or Suppers to heart, with celebrations around 25 January taking place in any country one cares to name. From formal suppers in the Philippines to ceilidhs in Canada to whisky glasses raised in bars in Brussels, you’ll find one wherever you are.
Picture: Phil WilkinsonPicture: Phil Wilkinson
Picture: Phil Wilkinson

The British Swiss chamber of Commerce is celebrating the bard’s 255th birthday with a Burns Supper on Friday, 24 January that includes a whisky tasting, live piping and a Highland dancing display, as well as all the usual formalities. Guests can also win a trip back to the motherland, with two nights in Edinburgh and one in St Andrews, and on the menu, but of course, there will be cock-a-leekie soup; haggis, neeps and tatties; cranachan and oatcakes and cheese.

Hong Kong

Robert Burns. Picture: GettyRobert Burns. Picture: Getty
Robert Burns. Picture: Getty

Hong Kong has been an enclave for Scottish expats for hundreds of years, so it’s unsurprising the Burns Supper of the St Andrew’s Society, founded in 1881, has sold out already. Head to the Canny Man pub instead, which serves steak pie, stovies, scotch pies and haggis, neeps and tatties any night o the year, alongside over 100 single malt whiskies.


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Don your black tie and best cocktail dresses for the Singapore St Andrew’s Society’s Supper, which promises a night of “free-flowing whisky, music, laughter and banter” on 25 January. For something less formal, expat Scots and Burns fans can head to the Roundhouse, where the Singapore Whisky Society is holding a whisky dinner in Burns’ honour on Tuesday, 21 January. Each of the four courses of dinner – wild mushroom soup, herb-crusted salmon, Angus tenderloin, meringues – will be paired with a different single malt, and “Scottish culinary surprises” are promised too.


Robert Burns’ nephew Thomas Burns was a founding father of the New Zealand city nicknamed the Edinburgh of the south (its name comes from the from the Gaelic for Edinburgh – Dùn Èideann), and its residents have been celebrating Burns Night since 1855. The Dunedin Burns Club, established in 1861, are holding a Burns Supper on 25 January that features young local musicians re-interpreting Burns’ songs plus a Burns poetry competition.


London’s exclusive private members’ Caledonian Club, founded in 1891 and situated in Belgravia, will hold their Burns Supper on Friday, 24 January. The club also provides the setting for the Burns Nights of other venerable institutions, including the University of Glasgow alumni association, whose black tie Supper and ceilidh will be held on Friday, 17 January, and the Burns Club of London, whose Supper will be held on 25 January, at which AL Kennedy will give the Reply to the Toast to the Lassies.


The menu for the Burns Supper at the St Andrew’s Society of Montreal on 24 January is delectable, if not traditional – although they do get bonus points for the inclusion of what they have named Auld Reekie cock-a-leekie. Concocted by the recipient of the 2011 Québec Thistle Council Auld Alliance Award for Scottish Cuisine, it includes venison pâté, oatmeal soda bread, grilled salmon with whisky and herb butter and Gordon Brown’s old favourite rumbledethumps, as well as, of course, haggis.

New York

The Caledonian Society, otherwise known as WASP-central, was founded in 1856 for “fellowship and cultural expression” and holds one of the most elegant black tie Burns Suppers to be found anywhere. This year on 25 January, ticket prices range from $140-$250 for cocktails, dinner and a ceilidh. the haggis, neeps and tatties feature only as an appetiser, while the rest of the menu includes a salad with dried cranberries, sugared pecans, orange segments and gorgonzola, and a roast breast of chicken served with a mélange of wild mushrooms, although there is a cranachan for dessert. The club helps to organise the city’s annual Tartan Week, and also holds classes in bagpiping, Gaelic and Scottish Country and Highland dance, as well as talks on Scottish history and culture.

For a less formal and more affordable option, head to one of the city’s many Scottish-themed pubs, where there’s sure to be a dram being poured in the bard’s honour, like St Andrew’s on West 46th Street in Midtown or Caledonia on the Upper East Side. Highlands gastropub in the West Village cooks with artisan imported Scottish produce and has whisky bread, parsnip soup, pearl barley risotto with Lockerbie cheddar, scallops, haggis neeps and tatties on the menu, as well as a host of whisky cocktails including the Bella Caledonia, Flying Scotsman, Mary Queen of Scots, Rob Roy and the Young Pretender.


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The Auld Alliance bar in the Marais, run by a Canadian of Scottish parentage, has a Burns Celebration onThursday, 23 January for €45 a head, at which all the proper ceremonial traditions will be observed, including the Selkirk Grace, the Address to the Haggis (recited in both Scots and French), the Immortal Memory, the Toast to the Lassies and the Reply. The menu includes Scottish smoked salmon, haggis, neeps and tatties, and cheese and biscuits.

United Arab Emirates

The Abu Dhabi St Andrews Society – which, with 18 nationalities among its membership is one of the more cosmopolitan of its type – is holding what sounds like a rather lavish black tie Burns Supper on Friday, 31 January in the gardens of the British Embassy. In Dubai, the Dubai Caledonian Society’s Burns Supper is onFriday, 24 January at The Palm, and promises a traditional menu, plus ceilidh dancing into the wee small hours.


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The theme of the Hawaii Caledonian Society’s Burns Night is “the lassies remember Robbie Burns”, which presumably he would have liked. The society was founded in 1965, but Scots had infiltrated Hawaii long before then, with Robert Louis Stevenson making a well-publicised visit in 1889, and Princess Ka’iulani being born to a Hawaiian mother, Princess Miriam Likelike, and an Edinburgh-born father, Archibald Scott Cleghorn. Held on Saturday, 25 January, the Supper’s dress code is Highland attire, and going on previous years there will be pipers aplenty.