An English guide to Burns Night

Just go with it

If you aren’t from Scotland, you’ve never heard of Robert Burns and never seen someone read a poem to a stuffed sheep’s stomach before stabbing it, you might want to read on.

The Basics

Burns Night is a celebration of the life and works of Scotland’s most renowned poet, Rabbie Burns.

People wear tartan. A lot of tartan.

It’s an excuse for a Ceildh and a lot of alcohol.

Students love a bit of Strip the Willow


There’s a lot of ‘Piping In’. Anyone and anything that enters the room at a formal event will have some form of bagpipes to go along with it. Why not?

There’s also an excess of poems, toasts, and Scottish songs you can attempt to join in with but it’s likely you won’t have a clue so just keep swigging on your wine.

One of the highlights of the evening is always the ‘Address to the Lassies’.

A male representative will make a toast to the ladies in the room, usually cracking a few jokes along the way, and then the women get a chance to reply.

Originally brought in to the event to thank the women for preparing the food but nowadays it’s all in good spirits so don’t get offended.

Finally, finishing with a often slurry rendition of Auld Lang Syne.


Haggis is integral. If you’re going to do Burns Night you may as well do it properly.

Once you get past the thought of it being all the parts of the sheep you wouldn’t normally eat, it’s actually pretty good.

He loves it

One lucky person is chosen to recite the Address to the Haggis (another Burns poem). Mid-address the reader stabs the haggis with a huge knife. Don’t be alarmed.

After the reader is finished they raise up the haggis and everyone cheers and toasts to it by shouting “The haggis”. Again, why not?

Other weird foodstuffs like cock-a-leekie soup, Clootie Dumplings, Typsy Lairds and cheese and bannocks may also be on show.

Obviously have a quick google of ingredients if you aren’t keen.


Stay classy. It’s about celebrating Scotland, not taking the piss.

Ladies, a tartan sash or accessories is ideal. Gents, if you’re feeling brave embrace a kilt. Make sure you know which tartan you’re getting.

Don’t have clan connections? Go for a universal tartan to avoid awkward encounters.

Are you a true Scotsman?

You may not know what is going on half the time, but the Scots know how to do a celebration so go along, eat, drink, dance, wear tartan and be grateful you didn’t go to an English university.