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.
5. The drink
As Burns’ suppers expanded in the last hundred years or so to become as much a celebration of Scottish culture and heritage, so has the drink served at Burns’ Suppers changed, with whisky (or Irn Bru) now commonplace.
6. Traditional drinks
Given the time and location of the first Suppers, there’s little chance either of those drinks featured. According to historian Rab Houston, ale was more than likely served alongside wine.
7. The toast
In the original suppers, the toast to the lassies were a cursory way of thanking the women who invariably served the meal but now they include a response from the ladies in the toast to the laddies response.
8. Burns’ work
The earliest Immortal Memories (toasts to Burns himself) would have been more akin to dedications at a wake or memorial but now tend to be a wider reflection of Robert Burns in a modern context.