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Burns Night

11th January 2018

Burns Night is celebrated on Robert Burns’ birthday on 25 January every year. The occasion was started by friends of Burns after his death. They hosted a supper at Burns Cottage in Ayrshire – where the poet previously lived – on the fifth anniversary of his death: 21 July 1801.

Over time, Burns Clubs were set up across the world, with the specific aim of remembering and cherishing the poetry and life of Robert Burns. These clubs started celebrating the life of the poet on his birthday rather than the anniversary of his death. The January Burns Night celebrations thus stuck, and Burns Clubs still exist to this day.

At traditional Burns Night celebrations, guests are usually greeted with Scottish music. Before the meal, the Selkirk Grace is usually recited. This is a thanksgiving saying using language of the Scots. It’s linked to Robert Burns because he is said to have momentously delivered it at a dinner hosted by the Earl of Selkirk, a Scottish peer.


Selkirk Grace

‘Some hae meat and canna eat,

And some wad eat that want it;

But we hae meat, and we can eat,

Sae let the Lord be thankit.’


The culinary festivities of Burns Night usually begin with a soup, followed closely by a main course embodying another Scottish tradition: haggis. In truly time-honoured versions of Burns Night, a poem by Robert Burns – Address to a Haggis – is recited as the haggis is brought in. This is undoubtedly one of the most majestic entrances a plate of food has ever made into a dining room! After a whisky toast, it’s time to tuck in.

As Scotland’s most famous poet, it makes sense the Scots want to shout from the rooftops to celebrate their literary hero. As people of Scottish heritage have travelled far and wide, they’ve bought their Burns Night tradition with them, making the date internationally recognised. Burns’ most famous poem Auld Lang Syne – set to the tune of a folk song – has further captured the global imagination. Sung at midnight on New Year’s Eve every year in the English-speaking world, even those who have never heard of Robert Burns before have certainly heard of Auld Lang Syne. It’s also common to sing it at the end of Burns Night too.


This Burns Night 2018, Galvin at The Athenaeum is collaborating with The Macallan to celebrate the Scottish tradition in lavish style. Whet the appetite early on with Highland venison tartar, followed by an immense Loch Linnhe prawn bisque. This leads on to the traditional main course of haggis, ‘neaps and tatties’ (turnips, swedes and potatoes).

Three Macallan whiskies have been specially selected to go with the meal, including the newly released Rare Cask. Fewer than 1% of the casks maturing at the distillery have been identified as fitting to bestow the Rare Cask name. These casks will never again be used in any Macallan whisky. Forming the perfect end to the meal, this whisky will be served alongside a warm Dundee cake with heather honey and lemon.

Rare whisky and a modern twist on Scottish cuisine will define Burns Night at The Athenaeum in 2018. Now that’s something worth raising a glass to and celebrating a hero of times past. Or as Robert Burns would say:

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.


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