January isn’t, traditionally, a time of year that’s ripe for partying. Following the excess of the run-up to Christmas, and then the firework-fuelled fun of New Year’s Celebrations, most of us aren’t in the mood for splashing out – and thus this time of year represents a little bit of a break in the social calendar.
North of the border, in Scotland, things are a little bit different. There’s a celebration toward the end of January designed to honour the country’s most famous poet, Robert Burns. Centred around a quasi-ceremonial reading of the poet’s best-loved works, this is an evening that promises something a little bit different – and it’s spreading on this side of Hadrian’s Wall, too.
So what components do we need to make a Burn’s Night party as traditional (and fun) as can be? Let’s run through some of the requirements.
The centrepiece of any good Burn’s night is the supper itself. This tradition first came about five years after Burn’s death, in 1796. Nine of the Bard’s closest friends assembled to pay tribute to their departed friend, and the centrepiece of the whole thing was haggis.
Of course, haggis isn’t a prospect that will get many of us salivating – especially when we’re more accustomed to pepperoni pizza and chicken tikka masala. If you don’t feel like making your own haggis, then you’ll be able to pick up a ready-made alternative from several supermarkets at this time of year. Waitrose is distinctive for having the greatest breadth of options available, including a vegan-friendly one.
Burn’s Night wouldn’t be complete without a few poems from the man himself. You’ll need someone with a flair for reading aloud, and who’s familiar with the works being recited. There’s no rigid structure to stick to, but you’ll probably need to include Address to a Haggis and Auld Lang Syne at the end.
A good scotch makes a fantastic after-dinner chaser. Look for something that’s high-quality, as you’re not going to be drinking too much of it. If you’re not usually a fan of quality scotch, then now is a perfect time to develop a taste for the stuff, as you’re going to be eating haggis, so you might as well be adventurous, too.
Making a record of your Burn’s Night experience is worthwhile, particularly if you’re doing it for the first time. This means taking a few snaps of the happy diners, a video of the readings, and the cooking process. Of course, if you’re based in Buckinghamshire, you’ll be able to include our services in just about any party you can think of – whether there’s poetry and haggis involved or not!