Burns Night 2023: When is Burns Night? Traditions and why Scots celebrate Robert Burns

At the end of January, people all over Scotland join together to celebrate Burns Night - here is everything you need to know.
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The end of January sees people in Edinburgh and Scots all over the world raise a glass of whisky to mark Burns Night. Here is everything you need to know about the date and why it is celebrated.

Who was Robert Burns? What poems did he write?

Burns Night 2023: When is Burns Night? Traditions and why we celebrate Robert BurnsBurns Night 2023: When is Burns Night? Traditions and why we celebrate Robert Burns
Burns Night 2023: When is Burns Night? Traditions and why we celebrate Robert Burns

“Who shall say that fortune grieves himWhile the star of hope she leaves him”

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Robert Burns was an 18th century Scottish poet, and now has the title of the National Bard of Scotland.

He was born on January 25, 1759 a few miles south of Ayr, and his works include Ae Fond Kiss, A Red Red Rose and Tam O Shanter. He is also considered to have written Auld Lang Syne, though it was based on an older, traditional song, which is sung by millions around the world, particularly on Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve).

He was a prolific writer, penning over 550 poems and songs throughout his short life, which have lasted through the centuries. He wrote predominantly in the Scots language and in 2009 he was chosen as the greatest ever Scot by the Scottish public.

He died at his home in Dumfries in July, 1796 leaving behind 12 children. It is thought that he has over 900 living descendants.

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When is Burns Night 2023?

“Still thou are blest, compared wi’ me!The present only toucheth thee:”

Burns Night takes place every year on January 25 – Robert Burns’ birthday. In 2023, this date falls on a Wednesday. The origins of Burns Night are believed to stem back to 1801, when a group of Burns’ friends gathered to mark the fifth anniversary of the poet’s death.

The first ever Burns Night was a night of revelry at Burns Cottage in Alloway, where haggis was eaten, Burns’ poems were performed, and speeches were made. The night was such a success the friends decided to mark it every year on the date of Rabbie’s Burns’ birthday. And so it became a tradition in Scotland.

What do Scots do on Burns Night? Traditions including whisky and haggis

“Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,Great Chieftain o’ the Puddin-race!”

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Those celebrating Burns Night will enjoy a host of Scottish traditions, as the whisky is poured and the haggis is cooked. One of Burn’s poems was titled Address to a Haggis and this is quoted before the haggis is cut and served. It is put on the plate with the obligatory neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes).

Many often meet for a cèilidh – a Scots dance – and listen to traditional Scottish music. Burns Night has become a true celebration of Scottish culture and language, and of course, Burns’ beautiful poetry. Children at school will memorise his poems and songs, ready to perform in front of the class, Irn Bru is enjoyed by all those who don’t indulge in whisky, and most importantly, people come together to celebrate and be merry.

The poetry of Robert Burns can be found on the Scottish Poetry Library’s website.

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