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Burns Night


It's that time of year where Scotland's most beloved son Robert "Rabbie" Burns' life and work is celebrated. If your revelries will be taking place somewhere a bit closer to home - i.e. your own living room - then all you need is good spirits and another kind of spirit too… whisky of course.


Burns’ Night is celebrated across the world, particularly in countries with large populations with Scottish ancestry, such as Canada, New Zealand, Australia and USA, but they are especially popular in Russia, where Burns’ politics and poetry are praised and appreciated.


Fortnum’s has over a century of association with Burns’ Night. We were certainly selling haggis in January for the celebration by the Edwardian era, and had our own label whisky by then too.


Over the centuries, the supper has evolved its own rituals, and we would normally be celebrating together at our annual Burns Night Supper in our Piccadilly store. The event is always hosted by our wonderful Archivist – and proud Scot herself – Dr Andrea Tanner, but if you can't make it this year, she has created this handy guide to celebrate Scotland's most famous son at home instead.


This 25th January, there is every reason to celebrate with your close loved ones, and to raise a glass to absent friends – for auld acquaintance.



Traditionally, a piper pipes in the guests. If you don’t have anyone at home with the requisite skills, simply play the sounds of a lone piper. Scottish music is usually played while the guests are seated.



The host greets everyone, and says the Selkirk Grace

''Some hae meat an canna eat, and some wad eat that want it; but we hae meat, and we can eat, and sae the Lord be thankit.''


Soup is served – Scotch Broth, Cullen Skink, or Cock-a-Leekie are the most popular. These are all rich and filling, and many people now substitute soup for Scottish Smoked Salmon, as modern alternative.


The haggis (boiled or baked) is piped in from the kitchen - usually to the tune "A Man's A Man for A' That", "Robbie Burns Medley" or "The Star O' Robbie Burns" - and laid on the table. Everyone stands up during the ceremonial progress.


The host, or a guest, recites the “Address to a Haggis” with a sharp knife or dirk in hand. At the words “his knife see rustic”, the haggis is cut open. Everyone toasts the haggis at the end of the poem, and the haggis is piped back into the kitchen.




The haggis is served with bashed Neeps (swede) and Tatties (mashed potato). It’s important to accompany it with a glass of whisky, good red wine and the best gravy, also made with whisky.



Dessert – usually Cranachan or Tipsay Laird, and a cheese course, made up of Scottish cheese, like Isle of Mull Cheddar, Lanark Blue or Crowdie and oatcakes, is then eaten.


Coffee and shortbread, or tablet is served, with a glass of whisky.



The main speaker then gives a short speech, called “The Immortal Memory”, on Burn’s life, his poetry, and his legacy. Sometimes this includes reciting a whole poem, or singing a song set to Burns’ words. A toast is then made to the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns, at which everyone stands.



A male speaker then rises and makes the 'Address to the Lassies'. Originally, this was a thank you to the women who had prepared the meal (Burns’ Suppers were all male affairs for a very long time). Now it covers the man’s view of the opposite sex. It has to be amusing but not offensive. Men then rise and toast the women guests, who remain seated, glowing in the praise.



This is followed by the 'Response o’ the Lasses', which is usually a wide-ranging – again amusing – speech about women’s views on men. It is not unusual for the two speakers to collaborate beforehand, so that the speeches complement each other. At the end of the Response, the women stand up and toast the Laddies.



There can then be poems recited or songs sung by guests. It is generally a good idea to have a copy of the Complete Works of Burns to hand, just in case memory falters. At the end of the meal, everyone stands, links hands, and sings Auld Lang Syne.

Burns Night Selection


To ensure the merriment goes as smoothly as possible, ever-so-helpful Fortnum's has assembled this selection of Burns Night essentials. Best served alongside traditional neeps and tatties, the hearty, traditional haggis has been slow cooked with minced lamb, suet, onion, oatmeal, barley and spices. Followed by dessert – consisting of Ewan’s Scottish Tablet and a tin of buttery-soft Macadamia Nut Shortbread Rounds. Finally, toast to the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns with Balvenie 12 Year Old Doublewood Whisky


Celebrate Burns Night at Fortnum & Mason

Tuesday 25th January, 7pm - 10pm

FIELD by Fortnum's, Ground Floor Mezzanine, Piccadilly

Join us on 25th January in FIELD by Fortnum’s for a traditional and delicious evening celebrating one of Scotland’s most-famous sons.