The celebrants gather and mingle, catch up on gossip, pore through their Burns editions, and peruse the whisky selection. The chairman or host may make some introductions among the guests, assign some readings, or deliver a few opening remarks.
Meal – Welcome Grace
The celebrants are called to the table, the host offers an opening grace – traditionally The Selkirk Grace – and the soup course is served.
Parade of the Haggis
The evening’s highest bit of pomp. The chef, carrying in the haggis, follows the piper – playing Brose & Butter,or some other appropriate tune – in a more or less dignified procession through the hall (or house, or one bedroom flat). The chef lays the haggis, on it’s groaning trencher, before the chairman at the high table.
Address to a Haggis
A previously designated reciter reads this poem over the haggis. A guid whisky gill is offered to the piper, chef and reciter, and with alacrity, the haggis is sliced open with the finely honed edge of a ceremonial dirk (though any old knife will do).THE (BAGLESS) HAGGIS
1/2 lb. beef liver
2 lamb kidneys
3/4 lb. lamb shoulder
1/4 lb beef suet
2 onions, minced
1 c. oatmeal
1 c. stock
salt and pepper
Boil the meats for an hour. Cool. Grate the liver. Chop the others fine. Chop the suet. Toast the oatmeal in a shallow pan in the oven, shaking occasionally. Mix the meats, suet, onions and oatmeal together with a cup of the stock in which liver and meats were cooked. Add salt and plenty of pepper to taste.
Turn into greased Pyrex bowl. Cover with 2 or 3 layers of foil. Steam on a rack in a pan of boiling water for 2 hours, adding more boiling water as it boils away.
The meal is then served with all its composite courses and copious helpings of guid ale and whisky. (I’ve seen some flavor their haggis with a dram of whisky, but I prefer both my pudden and whisky neat).
After the meal there is a brief interval while the table is cleared or the celebrants retire to another room for the rest of the evening’s festivities. The chairman needs to keep the guests focused and facilitate the flow of the songs, toasts and poetry that are to follow. Time to refill your glasses!
A good warm-up for the Immortal Memory, a musically inclined guest, or two, may sing a Burns song.
The chairman, or designated speaker, delivers the Immortal Memory address. This should be a rather serious and careful consideration of the life and art of Robert Burns. It may be a general, biographical sort of speech, or may address a specific aspect of the Bard’s work that is relevant to the particular group of assembled celebrants. This speech should be long-winded enough to remind the guests that this isn’t the office Christmas party, yet not so long as to induce cramping, dry-mouth, or ringing in the ears (about 25 minutes). This speech always ends with standing guests, raised glasses and an offered toast to the immortal memory of the Bard of Ayr.
Songs, Music & Readings
Now, in loose order, deftly orchestrated by the chairman, follow the other poems, toasts, songs and addresses of the evening. Celebrants who have arrived with selections to read take their turn entertaining the others. (It always helps if the chairman has some readings selected for guests who have arrived unprepared or who may need a little encouragement.)
The readings at our Burns Supper are not confined to the writings Burns exclusively. Anything that honors the immortal memory and spirit of the Bard is welcome. These include stories and anecdotes pertaining to Burns and his time, poems and songs by other Scottish poets, and original works composed by the celebrants for the occasion.
Lost Manuscript Fragment
A unique ritual at our Burns Night celebration, this delicate Burns artifact is carefully passed among the celebrants and read by each.
Toast To The Lassies
A traditional Burns Night ritual, this toast should be a light-hearted lampoon of the lassies’ (few) shortcomings. Illustrations from Burns, or from first hand knowledge of the subject, may be used. Warning: Please be tactful! It’s funny, but I’ve noticed that even the mildest, vaguest, allusions to the faults of women, in even the most general sort of way, may be misconstrued as a viscious personal attack!
Reply From The Lassies
Always delivered with grace, charm and wit, this savaging of the lads’ crude dispositions and social inferiority is always accepted with good humor by the menfolk present.
Tam o’ Shanter
No Burns Night is complete without a recitation of the great narrative poem.
Songs & Poems
The chairman may play it by ear and keep the readings going as long as the guests are willing and attentive. Alternatively, the evening may evolve into a bacchanal of music, song and dancing. Either are acceptable.
Closing Remarks From The Chairman
When an end to the festivities has finally arrived the chairman should thank the guests for their attendance, good cheer and high spirits. A few reciprocal remarks, or a toast, may be made by one of the celebrants and a vote of thanks offered to the host, chairman, chef, piper, etc.
Auld Lang Syne
The traditional end to any Burns Night – indeed, an appropriate end to any evening spent among the company of friends – is the singing of this sentimental Scottish song. It always helps to have the correct lyrics printed out for the, by now, groggily satisfied celebrants.