Thistles in a field

An easy guide to throwing a Burns Night celebration

17 Jan 23 3 minute read

Every year on the 25th of January Scotland raises a dram to celebrate national bard, Robert Burns. 

For over 200 years groups large and small have gathered to share Burns’ poems and songs over a feast of haggis and traditional local dishes such as cock-a-leekie soup. 

Thinking about hosting your own Burns Supper? Here are our tips and ideas for celebrating Burns Night without the waste... 

Setting the scene for supper

Setting the scene is important for any dinner party, and a Burns Supper is no exception. There’s no need to go out and buy a tonne of decorations though. If you already have anything tartan or plaid, then look at how these could be incorporated into your table – a tartan scarf could double up as a table runner to create an eye-catching centrepiece or scraps of tartan ribbon could be used to tie around fabric napkins.  

If you can’t get your hands on anything suitably Scottish to dress your dinner table, ask guests to come armed with a themed item they own to be displayed on the table. 

Short a plate or two? Table wear can be hired, bought second-hand or borrowed from friends and family to save on buying new.

A table made up for Burns Night with a tartan table runner

Dressed up for dinner

Traditionally guests of a formal Burns Supper would wear Scottish Highland Dress, but these days anything goes.  

To save on buying new, kilts can be rented. Or, for a more affordable option, check out what’s being sold on sites like Vinted or Facebook Marketplace as you can often find barely worn options. As kilts are pretty standard and easily adjustable, they can be swapped too if you needed to borrow from a friend. Someone with a size 30 waist could easily swap a kilt with a 34 waist and have it fit both. 

Address to a haggis

Poetry is at the heart of any Burns Night feast, with recitals of some of The Bard’s most famous poems and songs throughout the evening. If it’s your first Burns Supper, or you just need a refresh, Visit Scotland has a simple and easy-to-follow running order.  

Not all the poems read during a Burns Supper are as short and easy to remember as the four-line, Selkirk Grace. To save paper, and the infuriating rustling that accompanies it, have the poems saved on a tablet or mobile phone to read from rather than printing out.  

Scottish meal of Haggis, neeps and tatties - and of course a wee dram.

The main event - the food

Many have tried (and failed!) haggis hunting out in the wild. Luckily, you’ll find a range of haggis options in the supermarkets, from traditional to vegetarian and even bite-sized bon bons.  

Whichever option you choose, neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes) are normally served alongside the haggis as the main meal. 

Serving food ‘buffet-style' saves you the hassle of serving up and helps to make sure people only take what they can eat or the foods they like. This means less plate waste going into the bin and ensures leftovers remain in perfect condition to be stored and eaten later.  

A traditional Scottish pudding such as Clootie Dumpling, Cranachan or Selkirk Bannock served with a wee dram of whisky completes the meal. 

If you find yourself with leftovers, mashed potato makes great tattie scones for the morning after. Or try your hand at these three alternative haggis recipes.  

Burns Night celebrations often end with some ceilidh dancing and a rendition of Auld Lang Syne to round off the evening. How are you celebrating Burns Night this year? Tag @HowToWasteLess in your posts and tips on Instagram.