Burns night is nearly upon us and Scot or not, it is a celebration not to be missed.
The celebration of Scotland’s finest poet Robert Burns dates back to merchants in Ayrshire in 1801 and it has been a drink fuelled staple of the British calendar since the 1920’s with this year being no exception.
Burns night is famous across the world and over the weekend people from Aberdeen to Adelaide will be celebrating the Scot’s national bard.
Surbiton & District Caledonian Society, a Scottish country dancing club, are running a Burns night supper and dance on Friday January 24 at Claygate Village Hall, just outside Kingston in Esher.
A traditional Burns night usually begins with a ‘piping in’ the guests and a host’s welcome speech before a Selkirk’s Grace, a traditional thanksgiving grace in Scots. The meal usually starts with a soup, most likely Scotch broth or Cock-a-Leekie.
Although a drink fuelled festive occasion, Burns night actually has a rigorous structure that must be adhered to, which isn’t dependent on wearing a kilt.
Once everyone has finished their warmer, it is time for the main course and the famous ‘piping’ of the haggis.
With everyone on their toes, the haggis is brought in and paraded on a dish whilst bagpipes play a soft number, usually ‘A man’s a man for a’ that’ or ‘The star o’ Robbie Burns’.
Before everyone can tuck in, the ‘address to a haggis’ is recited and finished with a whisky toast.
Haggis is traditionally served with neaps and tatties, mashed turnips and potatoes.
The night finishes with a handful of humorous toasts, including the address ‘to the lassies’ and whisky induced rousing renditions of Burns’ work and Auld Lang Syne.
Of course, for the regular Burns’ night between friends, this can be seen as overly formal and it is not unsurprising to expect a more relaxed evening to celebrate Scotland’s favourite son.
Burns night is also great for local businesses whether it be restaurants or the local butchers.
Damien, of butcher’s ‘Jeffries Too’ in Norbiton, said: “We do see a slight increase in customers coming in and buying haggis thanks to Burns night.
“It helps attract customers away from superstores that we wouldn’t otherwise get.”
Jeffries Too are catering for a Burns supper event at Epsom College on Saturday for over a thousand people and are expecting to get through over 200 haggis at the event.
Jeffries Too offers haggis’ from 1Ib to 8Ib, ranging in price, from £5 to £35.
Elsewhere, Warren House in Kingston are offering a Burns themed dinner on Saturday from £35 as well as the opportunity to stay overnight and enjoy a Burns themed breakfast, complete with piper.
The Albert pub is hosting an ‘Art of Blending Burns Night’ from 7.30pm, you can learn about Scotch whisky alongside a good haggis, all for under £20.
If you are willing to travel further into London, the Ceilidh Club are holding Burns suppers at Cecil Sharp House on January 31 and at Hammersmith Town Hall on February 1, with entertainment from the English Folk Dance and Song Society.
The Duke’s Head in Putney offers a three-course Burns supper for under £30, including poetry readings and a piper.
Whilst the White Horse of Parsons Green is offering a five-course Burns night menu, complete with beer-matching between courses for £40
With 2014 seeing Scotland’s referendum on Independence, Boisdale of Canary Wharf are celebrating Burns night with a ‘union haggis’. Championing the union by using ingredients from across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Image courtesy of REX Features