How to Host Your Own Burns Supper

It may be many years old but the tradition of the Burns Supper is as fresh and enjoyable today as ever it was… so here’s how to enjoy a personal celebration of the Scottish Bard

Bill Nolan, Secretary of the Irvine Burns Club, one of the oldest continually existing Burns Clubs in the world, says: “It’s a myth that there’s any formal protocol that has to be followed other than the basic one that every Burns Supper has to be fun – and that’s easily assessed by asking one question: ‘Would Robert Burns have enjoyed this event?’

“To which the answer should always be a resounding: ‘Yes – and he’s coming back next year!'”

What should the running order be?

Everyone stands to welcome the top table, if there is one. The Guid Man or Woman o’ the chair says a few introductory words and the Selkirk Grace is said:

Some hae meat and canna eat,

And some wad eat that want it,

But we hae meat and we can eat,

Sae let the Lord be Thankit!

If there’s a starter – usually cock a’ leekie soup – it is taken before the haggis is piped in. The Address to a Haggis is recited, complete with dirk into haggis, the chef, piper and reciter get a dram, and everyone toasts the haggis.

The main meal of haggis, neeps and tatties is served – we recommend neat malt as a haggis sauce – followed by dessert, with our favourite cranachan.

And what happens after the meal?

After the meal is the entertainment, usually starting with a Burns song or poem or two. Then comes the Immortal Memory, which should always be semi-serious, ending with the toast “to the immortal memory of Robert Burns”.

The Toast to the Lassies is given, followed by the Reply to the Toast to the Lassies, before as many more Burns poems and songs as you would like.

At the end, the Guid Man or Woman thanks all the entertainers and people behind the scenes, before everyone stands and sings Auld Lang Syne. Remember to cross your arms and join hands only when you get to the line: “And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere, and gie’s a hand o’ thine”.

Above all, have fun as you celebrate your connection to the heritage and culture of Scotland.