Who's going to the parades to night? Not me. I'm a fair weather parade-goer thank you. I have me a fresh bottle o' Highland Park, and will be heat up the haggis and neeps and tatties here soon. Or as a friend ours put it "sucking down ground up animal parts to show appreciation for a dead poet?" Whatever!
We will be having an abbreviated Burn's Dinner I'm sorry to say. No bagpipes and our haggis will be out of a can. I'm looking forward to all the toasting on such a cold, wet day.
Host's welcoming speechThe host says a few words welcoming everyone to the supper and perhaps stating the reason for it. The event is declared open.
Everyone is seated at the table(s) and grace is said, usually using the Selkirk Grace:
The Selkirk Grace
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.
The supper then starts with the soup course. Normally a Scottish soup such as Scotch Broth, Potato Soup or Cock-a-Leekie is served.
Entrance of the haggis
Everyone stands as the main course is brought in. This is always a haggis on a large dish. It is brought in by the cook, generally while a piper plays bagpipes and leads the way to the host's table, where the haggis is laid down. S/he might play 'A man's a man for aw that'. The host, or perhaps a guest with a talent, then recites the Address To a Haggis.
His knife see rustic Labour dicht the speaker normally draws and cleans a knife, and at the line An' cut you up wi' ready slicht, plunges it into the haggis and cuts it open from end to end. When done properly this "ceremony" is a highlight of the evening.
At the end of the poem, a whisky toast will be proposed to the haggis. Then the company will sit and enjoy the meal. The main course is, of course, haggis, and is traditionally served with mashed potatoes (tatties) and mashed neeps (known in England as swede or in North America as rutabaga or turnip). A dessert course, cheese courses, coffee, etc. may also be part of the meal. The courses normally use traditional Scottish recipes. For instance dessert may be cranachan or Tipsy Laird (sherry trifle) followed by oatcakes and cheese, all washed down with liberal tots of the "water of life" (uisge beatha) – Scotch whisky.
When the meal reaches the coffee stage various speeches and toasts are given. In order the core speeches and toasts are as follows.
One of the guests gives a short speech, remembering some aspect of Burns' life or poetry. This may be light-hearted or intensely serious. The speaker should always prepare a speech with his audience in mind, since above all, the Burns' supper should be entertaining.
Everyone drinks a toast to Robert Burns.
Toast to the lasses
Reply to the toast to the lasses
Other toasts and speeches
Works by Burns
Finally the host will wind things up, calling on one of the guests to give the vote of thanks, after which everyone is asked to stand, join hands, and sing Auld Lang Syne which brings the evening to an end.