Burns Night


  • comprise (verb) – to include
  • ode (noun) – a lyric poem, typically one in the form of an address to a particular subject
  • critically acclaimed (phrase) – a piece of work that has received generally good reviews from a number of critics
  • bagpipes (noun) – a traditional Scottish musical instrument

Here in Scotland, the 25th January is a day for celebration. Why? It’s because our most famous poet, Robert Burns, was born on this day.

Robert Burns lived from 1759-1796 and wrote many poems that are still famous today. Every year on 25th January, it’s tradition in Scotland to hold a party to celebrate the contribution Burns made to Scottish culture.

We have a special meal called a ‘Burns Supper’ which traditionally comprises haggis, neeps (mashed turnips) and tatties (mashed potatoes). Haggis is a Scottish dish made from the heart, lungs and liver of a sheep, and cooked using the animal’s stomach. It sounds horrible…but you might be surprised at how tasty it really is! Usually, the haggis is carried into the dining room on a silver plate and musicians play the bagpipes. Then, someone will perform the poem “Address To A Haggis”. This is a poem by Burns about his love for haggis! At the end of the poem, the performer cuts the haggis with a special knife. It’s very dramatic! We eat our haggis with a “wee dram” of whisky. “Wee” is the Scottish word for “little”, and a “dram” is a small amount of whisky.

After the meal, there are more poems. A poet usually writes and performs a tribute to Robert Burns. It can be a daunting prospect for the poet to write an ode to such a famous poet, but the audience always appreciates it with a round of applause. Other guests at the Burns Supper can read some poems that Robert Burns wrote too.

Robert Burns was not only a critically acclaimed poet, he also wrote song lyrics, and most Burns Suppers include music with songs that he wrote.

Then it’s time to dance! When we have a party with traditional Scottish dances, we call it a “ceilidh” (pronounced “kay-lee”). Most of the dances at a ceilidh are fast and fun. Sometimes the dances are a bit confusing, but the musicians will teach the audience the necessary moves before each dance begins. If it is still confusing, it doesn’t matter because the most important thing at a ceilidh is to have fun.

If you are in Scotland in January, we recommend going to a Burns Supper so that you can experience it yourself. If you visit at a different time of year, you can still try some haggis and even join a ceilidh. We guarantee it’s an experience you will never forget.

If you’re a fan of Scotland and the Scottish culture, Intrepid English provide intensive English courses based in the beautiful Scottish capital city of Edinburgh. For more information, take a look at the Edinburgh Intrepid English Experience page, or contact us to talk about reserving a place in May or September 2019.

Fun Fact:    ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is sung around the world at New Year, but did you know that the words of the song were written by Robert Burns?

This blog was written by Intrepid English teacher, Gemma. Find out more about Gemma on her Intrepid English Teacher profile page

If you have any questions, or you would like to request a topic for a future blog, you can contact us here or email us at Intrepid English.

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