On the 25th of January, Scots and their friends around the world celebrate Burns Night—an evening of Scottish culture and laughter fuelled by whisky and haggis. Although there will be Burns Suppers and events taking place throughout the country, not all celebrations will be dog-friendly, but there’s nothing stopping you from throwing a little Burns Night bash of your own. The beauty of the Burns Supper is that it can be as formal or as informal as you like and you can adapt the main components of the evening to suit your guests, human or otherwise. Good company, delicious Scottish food and drink, and a couple of fitting tributes to Scotland’s Bard are all you need to have a fun-filled Burns Supper with your furry little mate in tow.
Poet Robert Burns began life as a poor tenant farmer but channeled his intellectual energy into poetry and song to become one of the most famous figures in Scotland’s cultural history. A pioneer of the Romantic movement, his lyrical poetry (most of which was written in the Scots dialect) included poignant reflections on the subjects of working class culture and morality. Since his death in 1796 his work has inspired many other artists. Bob Dylan said Burns was his biggest inspiration and Maya Angelou read his poems as a child—with a Scottish accent! Read on to find out how to do Burns Night right.
If you’re throwing a more formal Burns Supper feel free to don evening wear or full traditional Scottish dress. Who doesn’t like an excuse to wear a kilt? No one.
Your outfit doesn’t have to be traditional, just make an effort. And remember: throwing in a little tartan is never a bad idea!
The star of any Burns Supper is undoubtedly the haggis and at traditional Burns Suppers, the chef follows the piper into the room, carrying the haggis in on a silver platter while guests stand. The meaty, oaty, spicy haggis is traditionally eaten with sides of mashed tatties (potatoes) and neeps (swedes). Vegetarian and vegan versions of haggis are widely available and damn good.
Unfortunately neither traditional nor vegan versions are suitable for dogs because they contain onions and garlic so make sure you give your furry wee mate a dog-friendly treat while the humans tuck in. The main is followed by Cranachan, a pudding made up of toasted oats, raspberries, honey and whipped cream doused in whisky.
Before you tuck into the haggis the Address to The Haggis is ceremoniously recited for all to hear. Traditionally the rest of the poems are read after the meal has been served, but just throw in some poetry readings or songs in between courses if you fancy. You may not understand all of the words but still grasp the theme of the poems, so just let your imagination do its thing while you kick back and listen to the recitals—don’t worry, some will even be funny!
If you’d like to recite a poem of your own, we’d recommend The Twa Dugs, which Burns wrote as a tribute to his beloved dog, Luath.
Whisky, Scotland’s national drink, is an essential part of any good Burns Supper. Have a few drams and enjoy. Maybe also order in a couple of bottles of dog-friendly beer so that your little mate doesn’t feel left out.
No matter what the scale, size or budget of your Burns Supper, lively music of all genres is a must. It’s traditional to play bagpipe music when your guests arrive and when the haggis is brought to the table but feel free to mix it up and play your favourite contemporary Scottish bands. Whether you’ve hired a live ceilidh band, a lone piper, or just put on an impressive playlist of Scottish tunes, a bit of dancing is always a fun way to burn off your supper!
Ceilidh dancing is fun for beginners and seasoned dancers alike. At this stage you’ll have had a couple of drinks and be more inclined to attempt the steps to popular dances like the Flying Scotsman and Strip the Willow. Before you know it you’ll have the hang of it!
Once everyone’s well fed, well oiled, and in high spirits the traditional way to end the evening is with everyone joining hands in a large circle to sing Auld Lang Syne. The song is a recollection of happy days gone by and even if you and your dog don’t know all the words, we guarantee you’ll be singing along.
Featured image: the.la.way