It may be a Scottish celebration, but Burns Night is becoming increasingly popular south of the border.
For more than 200 years, people have been gathering to mark the anniversary of the poet Robert Burns’s birthday.
Burns Suppers are full of traditions: as well as kilts and bagpipes, there are lots of dishes and drinks associated with the occasion. Haggis is one of the best-known Burns Night meals, not least because of Burns’s Address to a Haggis which is often read after the food is presented.
However, there are many other dishes which make up a Burns Supper menu. Neeps and tatties – also known as swede and potatoes – are a common accompaniment. Cock-a-leekie (smoked haddock soup) makes a great starter, and the cream, fruit and oatmeal dessert of Cranachan is a popular final course.
Naturally, there is plenty of whisky to go around. As well as a whisky sauce for the main course, many chefs throw a measure in to the Cranachan too. Of course, there are plenty of drams around the table, ready for a toast and to enjoy during the entertainment.
Speaking of which, there are two main themes here. Firstly, poetry is a key part of any traditional Burns Supper. Burns’ work is often read out by the host or master of ceremonies, and his history and achievements may also be recounted.
The night begins with the Selkirk Grace before the first course, then the haggis is presented and addressed. The Toast to the Lassies offers light-hearted teasing of the women present, followed by a Reply to the Toast to the Lassies which is just as sharp in its wit.
Music also plays a large part in the celebrations. From the customary welcome of a Highland piper to a live band leading a ceilidh after supper, there are many options open to event organisers for the evening. However, what features in almost every Burns Supper is a rendition of Auld Land Syne before the night ends.
There are plenty of great opportunities to mark Burns Night in Yorkshire this month. Here are just a few highlights…
Just to the north of us at Middleton Tyas, the elegant Middleton Lodge is holding a Burns Night Ball on Saturday 28th January. The black tie event – with kilts, naturally – features a glass of fizz on arrival, a four-course meal and dancing to a live band. Tickets are £55 per person and the evening begins at 6.30pm, with carriages at 1am.
Up the road at Tennants of Leyburn, you will find a celebration fit for Rabbie Burns himself. The four-course dinner includes cock-a-leekie, haggis, neeps and tatties, steak and ale pie, mash and roots, and Cranachan. Guests will enjoy traditional games, competitions and a quiz, and there will even be a piper to set the mood. Tickets are just £25 a head for the dinner on Saturday 21st January from 7pm.
If you want to travel further afield, you might like to try the event at Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield on Wednesday 25th January. Beginning at 7pm, the creative team is offering a Scottish dinner for the whole family, with ceilidh music, the sounds of traditional bagpipes and of course Burns’ poetry. Tickets are £35, with reductions for concessions and children.