How to Host the Ultimate Burns Night Celebration

Don’t forget the whisky!

Not just a celebration of the life and work of the ‘Scottish Bard’, Burns Night (25 January) is a great opportunity for a get-together to celebrate Scotland, eat some lovely food and enjoy a ‘wee dram’ or two.

Whether formal or informal, a Burns Night celebration will normally involve raising a glass of whisky, a recital of Robert Burns’ poetry and a feast of haggis.

Here’s how to host the ultimate (informal!) Burns Night celebration:

Gathering the Guests

Spotify is your friend if you can’t find one of these.

Traditionally, guests are piped in by a live bagpipe player, but a quick Spotify search should help you find yours!

The guests gather and the host says a few words of welcome before reciting Burns’ Selkirk Grace:

Some hae meat an canna eat,

And some wad eat that want it,

But we hae meat, and we can eat,

And sae the Lord be thankit.

The Meal

The main event

Starters are served – traditionally a bowl of cock-a-leekie soup – before the haggis is piped in. Burns’ Address to a Haggis is then recited before everyone toasts the ‘Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race’.

Traditionally accompanied by mashed potatoes (tatties) and swede (neeps), the main meal is often followed by dessert and/or a cheeseboard with oatcakes followed by coffee.


The first post-dinner entertainment is often a sung or spoken recital of Burns’ work. The second, named the Immortal Memory, should explore Burns’ work in a lighthearted or serious way.

Address to the Lassies, Reply to the Laddies

A toast
A toast

A humorous highlight, this toast is traditionally made to praise the ladies, with a female guest then replying with a speech about the assembled menfolk.

Plenty of talking, singing and drinking follow before the grand finale!

Thanks & Auld Lang Syne   

The host thanks the participants before inviting guests to their feet for a rendition of Auld Lang Syne, crossing arms and joining hands at the line: And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!

Optional Extras

Keep your guests entertained with games, a quiz or a contest. Being engaged, having fun and paying tribute to the Scotland and its Bard is what Burns Night is all about!

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