Burns Night is going virtual, and there are a lot of ways you can take part to toast and celebrate Scotland’s National Bard, Robbie Burns.
The legendary poet, who wrote “Auld Lang Syne”, is recognized every year, around the world, on January 25th, usually with whisky, haggis, and reciting some of his works. If you’re not sure how best to enjoy the night, read on for a few of the best ideas to get started in real Scottish style.
Plan your night at home & online
Before you start, there are a lot of resources to learn more about the bard, and how to celebrate Burns Night, but one of the best is Visit Scotland’s Burns Night Guide (you can also read the whole guide at the bottom of the page). You can also check out RobertBurns.org for another guide on how to plan your night.
Next, you may want to consider how you want to celebrate. Do you want to stream an event, or recreate Burns Night with your own dinner, drinks, and poetry? Or maybe a bit of both.
There are a lot of options if you want to stream Burns Night. Edinburgh Castle in Scotland will celebrate A Virtual Burns Night with song and poetry, toasts, and performances this year. You can tune in on Facebook or YouTube starting at 5 PM GMT, or 12 PM EST.
Or in Canada, the Scottish Society of Ottawa is hosting a Burns Supper with virtual entertainment. You can find more information on their website.
Prepare the menu
If you’re cooking at home, tatties, neeps, and haggis are the traditional fare for Burns Night, since they’re classic Scottish food. That means mashed potatoes, turnip or rutabaga, and haggis–a savoury pudding made with oats, sheep’s pluck, and spices.
Of course, you can get creative, but if you go with the traditional approach, the hardest part will be finding haggis. In Canada a number of grocery stores and meat shops carry frozen haggis, like MacSween. When in doubt, call or order ahead since Haggis tends to sell out at a lot of stores around Robbie Burns Day.
For tatties and neeps, you can prepare them separately, or Jamie Oliver has a good recipe for making them together.
Or, some Scottish restaurants are offering orders for pickup. In Toronto, for instance, The Caledonian is offering a Rabbie Burns Night meal kit that includes haggis, neeps, and tatties with sticky toffee pudding for $25 per person, or $85 for four people. For a little extra, they also have a whisky tasting kit to properly toast the bard.
What to drink
Outside of the haggis, one of the most important parts of Robbie Burns Day is the whisky. If you’re a traditionalist, Scotch is a must, but I think you can toast with any whisky.
There are dozens and dozens of excellent options for whiskies, but I’ve got a few favourites that I recommend for toasting in style. You don’t always need to spend a lot of money for a great whisky, but there is nothing quite like a fine whisky, all the same.
- Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch is a widely-available and excellent overall whisky, and it’s generally under $60.
- Lagavulin 8 Year Old Islay Single Malt Scotch whisky is peaty, rich, and sweet with a smooth finish.
- Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky is silky, a little spicy, and smells like vanilla and honey.
- Or, for one of my favourite brands, any whisky from The Macallan.
- For a Canadian dram, Collingwood Double Barrel Whisky is an absolutely wonderful, and affordable treat that’s finished with toasted Maplewood staves.
- Or for a more upscale Canadian whisky, Canadian Club 43 Year-Old Chronicles Issue No. 3 offers a dram like no other. The flavours are complex, oaky, with a finish that’s layered in sweet, spice, and dried fruit.
Read Robert Burns’ poetry
At the heart of what made Robert Burns so popular around the world is the bard’s incredible writing. He was a prolific author, and today he’s still celebrated in Canada, the United States, Japan, and beyond. His work is referenced in everything from film, television, books, and music, and even Abraham Lincoln was a fan.
For a serious deep-dive into the bard’s poems and songs, RobertBurns.org has all 559 of his works, and you can even browse them in chronological order.
Scotland.org has a wonderful collection of Burns’ most notable works too, including “A Man’s A Man For A’ That”, “Ae Fond Kiss”, “Auld Lang Syne”, “To A Mouse” and “A Red, Red Rose”, “Tam O’Shanter”, and of course, “Address To A Haggis”.
“Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race!
Aboon them a’ yet tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’a grace
As lang’s me arm.”— Address To A Haggis
Bagpipe music is very traditional for Burns Night, and Spotify or Apple Music have a number of albums, and playlists to help liven up your evening.
Spotify, for instance, has This Is Robert Burns, a collection of 29 songs and readings, including “Address To A Haggis” by Gordon Kennedy.
For easy listening, Traditional Scottish Folk offers a more relaxed mood, but for proper Scottish bagpipe music, it’s hard to top Bagpipes of Scotland. Or if you’re looking for a more modern mix of pop and rock music, there’s Made In Scotland.
Happy Burns Night!
Enjoy, have fun, and slàinte mhath!https://ebooks.visitscotland.com/442794