So welcome to the second installment of our special January blogs dedicated to crafting the perfect Burns Night, which will shortly be upon us this Sunday.
In our last post we gave you some top tips and advice on what to wear if you are hosting or attending a Burns Night supper, as well as how to decorate your table and make the dining room look dazzling for your guests.
So, depending on what type of evening you are planning on throwing, whether a formal dinner or an informal, intimate group of your nearest and dearest, it’s good to stick to at least some of the traditions which give Burns Night its authentic feel. After all, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without bad cracker jokes and dry mince pies (soaked up by lashings of brandy cream in my house), and so Burns Night wouldn’t be Burns Night without haggis, neeps, tatties and reciting the odd piece of Robbie Burns’ poetry with a slur after too much whisky.
So to kick off the evening, have a think about the music you might want playing whilst guests are arriving, as well as when the haggis is being ‘piped’ in. Whilst a professional bagpipe player may be a little extravagant for a home dinner party, some well-thought out music in the background will really add to the ambience.
Next - two traditions which cannot be bypassed - the address and the toast to the haggis. Make sure you nominate someone with an added bit of charisma for these jobs, as it will spark off the evening and get the party atmosphere started. Get your guests in the spirit from the start!
For the main meal, if you have time in advance, why not try making your own haggis? There are some fantastic traditional and vegetarian recipes around; or for the time-poor (myself included here), there are some excellent local butchers with their own uniquely tasting recipes. For more inspiration for your ‘Bill O’ Fare’, take a look at the Scotland.org website for some unorthodox and exciting recipes, including scrumptious Dingwall Haggis Bon Bons and Oatmeal shortbread, whisky chocolate, marinated raspberries and whisky caramel. Delish.
And who could forget the real party-giver – whisky.
It’s traditional to douse the haggis with whisky ‘sauce’ (in Scottish terms that means neat whisky!) and to follow the meal with an offering of whiskies for your guests. But do as you see fit. If you are attending a Burns supper, why not take a pewter or tartan whisky flask as a treasured gift to your host as a thank-you?
Now comes the time in the evening for some entertainment in the form of reading Robbie Burns poetry, including Tam O’ Shanter and Holy Willie’s Prayer, or a song, such as the infamous My Luve is Like a Red Red Rose. There are no hard and fast rules about the entertainment these days, especially if yours is an informal evening, so be creative and involve your guests - they will love you for it. Make this part of the evening fun and perhaps even consider having a recital competition, or even a Robbie Burns quiz to liven things up. You can also hold off the entertainment until after The Immortal Memory or the Reply to the Toast to the Lassies if you wish.
Finally, Burns Night would not be complete without finishing off with a round of Auld Lang Syne to send your guests on their way. One tradition I do like to stick to.
But whichever way you choose to celebrate, remember that having fun is the one and only hard and fast rule here, so enjoy!