[I've had to remove and re-enter this post for technical reasons - LV]
The Burns Supper is a real institution in Scottish culture: it commemorates the life and the poetry of the national poet Robert Burns, the emanent figure of Scotland. The celebration of the national bard is held on the poet's birthday 25 januari. The first recorded supper took place in July 1801 by close friends of Burns as a tribute to his memory. The ritual is linked to the Scottish heritage but also occurs throughout the world as in Northern Ireland, Canada and New-Zealand.
Robert Burns is a Scottish poet born into a family of farmers. As a child he received a poor education but soon enough he came to be regarded as a truly gifted poet. He wrote many songs and poems in the Scottish dialect of English; he also collected and reworked existing Scottish songs. He is not only regarded as the national poet of Scotland but also as a pioneer of the Romantic movement.
In fact Burns Supper consists of the recitation of his poetry. It is very formal and has a specific running order :
Piping in the guests
A big-time Burns Night calls for a piper to welcome guests. The audience stands and claps in time to the music while the guests enter the room in single file and take their seats.
The chairman says a few welcoming words, introduces the assembled guests and the evening’s entertainment.
The Selkirk Grace
The meal commences with the Selkirk Grace. A short but important prayer read in the Scottish dialect of English to usher in the meal, introducing the traditional Scottish dish : the Haggis.
The typical Bill o’ Fare menu includes:
Haggis warm reeking, rich wi’ Champit Tatties
Tyspy Laird (sherry trifle)
A Tassie o’ Coffee
It’s ofen customary to douse the haggis with a splash of whisky sauce.
The immortal memory
The chairman introduces the keynote speaker who delivers his speech on the life of Robert Burns: his literary genius, his politics, his highs and lows and most importantly his nationalism. The speaker concludes with a heart-felt toast : To the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns.
Toast to the Lassies
The object of this toast is to speak about the importance of women in our lives, refering to Burns, the women in his life, his attitudes and his views on women.
Reply to the Toast to the Lassies
It is the revenge for the women present as they get their chance to reply.
Most importantly the most important element of any Burns Supper must surely be fun. Now you have all the key elements to organise a Burns Supper !