|Forum Home > What makes a Burns Supper > What to expect from a Burns Supper in detail|
There are guidelines and observances to be followed and traditionally, guests at the Supper are involved in these observances helping to make it a great event. Detail of the traditional format of a Burns Supper are listed below.
Piping in the Top Table
The top table guests are piped in (if it's a formal gathering) and the assembled gathering welcomes them by clapping along to the music. If it's a smaller event and there is no piper, then traditional music soundtrack is normally played. When ready to be seated, the piper stops playing and the guests give a round of applause.
The Chairman's role as 'Master of Ceremonies' is very important to direct proceedings throughout the evening. The Chairman welcomes everyone and introduces the top table, speakers and entertainers and may run through the sequence of events for the evening. Then it is customary to say the 'Selkirk Grace' before the starter is served:
"Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some would eat that want it,
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit."
Piping in the Haggis
The Chairman asks the guests to be upstanding to receive the star attraction the haggis. This is delivered to the table with pomp and ceremony, presented on a silver platter, carried on high by the chef. The small procession, including the person who will address the haggis as well as perhaps a whisky bearer, is led in by the piper, playing 'Brose & Butter' or some other rousing tune.
The Address to the Haggis
The appointed speaker then gives a resounding and dramatic rendition of Burns' 'To a Haggis' With dirk or knife at the ready, he first apologises for 'killing' the haggis, then during the line 'An' cut you up wi' ready slight' meaning 'and cut you up with skill', the speaker savagely stabs his knife into the haggis and slices along its length, trenching its gushing entrails (digging its innards) with a great flourish. The recital ends with the speaker raising the platter above his head, showing the audience the steaming dish and uttering the triumphant words: 'Gie her a Haggis!' to rapturous applause.
For the full lyrics please click here
Toast to the Haggis
The speaker then asks the guests to share in a toast to the haggis. Everyone stands and raises their glass to 'The Haggis', shouting out the words loudly and with gusto. The piper again begins to play, leading the haggis back out of the dining room in preparation for the dinner. Again the audience claps in time to the music as the procession departs.
After the meal, there is a brief comfort break while the table is cleared.
The Chairman introduces the first entertainer who could be a singer or musician performing one of Burns' songs such as 'My Luve is like a Red, Red Rose', 'Ae Fond Kiss', 'Rantin, Rovin Robin' or 'John Anderson, My Jo'. Popular recitals include 'Tam O Shanter', 'To A Louse', 'Address to the Unco Guid', 'Holy Willie's Prayer' or 'A Man's A Man For A' That'.
The Immortal Memory
The main speaker is introduced and gives a spell-binding account of the life of Burns. His literary prowess, his politics, his Nationalistic pride in Scotland, his humanity, his faults and his humour should all be explored, giving the audience an insight into the life and works of the Bard in a witty, yet serious way. The speaker concludes with an invitation to join in a heart-felt toast: 'To the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns'.
More celebration of Burns' work or anything that honours the immortal memory and spirit of the Bard.
Toast to the Lassies
This humorous speech, gently ridiculing the (few) shortcomings of women should raise smiles from both sides of the mixed company, so anything too chauvinistic and cutting should be kept in check! Despite the tongue-in-cheek ribbing, the speech ends on a complimentary note, with the speaker asking the men to be upstanding to raise their glasses in a toast 'To the Lassies'
More song, dance, fiddling, recitals.
Reply to the Toast to the Lassies
This is the chance for the women to retort with cunning, wit and a few good-natured jibes of their own. The speech often begins with a sarcastic thanks on behalf of the women present for the previous speaker's 'kind' words and then gives a lively response highlighting the foibles of the male race, using reference to Burns and the women in his life. Again, this finishes on a positive note.
A final entertainer bravely faces the by now more than likely more than merry audience.
Vote of Thanks
As the festivities draw to a close, a vote of thanks is made to everyone who has made the evening such a success, from the chairman and chef to the entertainers and guests.
Auld Lang Syne
The traditional end to a Burns Supper' or indeed, any gathering among the company of friends' is the singing of this famous Burns' song about parting. The company join hands, often in a large circle, and belt out the words together. At the line: 'And here's a hand', you cross each of your hands over to rejoin those standing on either side of you.