January 25 is considered Scotland’s ‘other national day’ alongside St Andrew’s Day in late November – but what are the origins of the traditions observed?
Whether in a formal Burns Supper club setting, or just toasting with a dram at home, Burns’ Night gives the whole country a chance to reflect on our contribution to the world. Traditions of that night still exist today, and from the entertainment to the cuisine, we look at the origins of those special things that mark Burns night.
1. The date
There were actually two potential dates for some of Burns’ contemporaries to honour him, with an informal gathering in Alloway, where Burn’s Cottage had been turned into an alehouse. Photo: Shutterstock
2. January and July celebrations
According to Oxford University, that first gathering, organised by the Ayrshire Guild of Shoemakers, took place on January 29th, which they erroneously thought to be Burns’ birthday. A later event was held in July. Photo: wikimedia
3. Deciding on the date
These events, attended by many of Burns’ friends, were both held for several years until the January date was settled on, reportedly because it was a fallow period for local farmers. Photo: Shutterstock
4. The haggis
The ‘great chieftan o’ the pudding race’ was rumoured to have been served at the first Burns’ Supper as ‘To a Haggis’ is one of Burns’ most famous works, and it is traditionally recited just before the meal is served. Photo: Shutterstock