Traditional Burns Suppers usually follow a set format. To begin with a piper will pipe guests in and the Chair (usually the event host or organiser) will welcome the guests once they are seated. The night starts with a grace of prayer – usually the Selkirk Grace.
The meal begins with a soup starter, this is usually a Scottish broth such as Cullen skink or a cock-a-leekie. This is followed with the haggis being brought in. As this is the main event and the most celebrated part of the meal, it is brought out on a silver plate while the piper plays. The Chair will them recite Address to a Haggis, it will be cut open when they reach the line “An’ cut you up wi’ ready slicht”. The Haggis is then traditionally served with neeps and tatties.
After the meal the entertainment begins, with performances of Burns’ poems and songs. A series of toasts are given to celebrate his life and the guests assembling in his honour. The speeches are traditionally given as follows:
The Immortal Memory
This is a speech given by the events main speaker, which sometimes includes a recital of a piece of Burns’ work. This is a formal reading and is a testimony to Burns’ life and legacy, and is followed by a toast to his immortal memory.
Address to the Lassies
This is usually light hearted and informal while not being offensive. The Address to the Lassies is given by a male speaker. During the address the speaker will praise the role women play in today’s society, often drawing from Burns’ work.
Reply to the Laddies
Similar to the Address to the Lassies, the Reply to the Laddies gives a female speaker a chance to respond again, using Burns, to praise and poke fun at the men. Some speakers like to collaborate and write their speeches together so they may reference each other and guests to make it more personal and humorous.
To conclude the evening all the guests join hands and perform Auld Lang Syne to pay tribute to not only Robert Burns but to the spirit of friendship, community and of course feasting!