On the 25th January, Scotland and Scots from around the world, celebrate the birth date of the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns. He was born on the 25th January 1759. Five years after Robert Burns died his closest friends wanted to celebrate his life and held a remembrance supper in his honour. Now Scots follow the same tradition and have a Burns Supper with its main star being Haggis, not for the faint hearted. There are many traditions and customs that take place on Burns Night and many have been adapted over time. Below is a few ideas and activities I have come up with to celebrate and learn about Burns Night that is celebrated by Scots. If you have any more children ideas or activities please feel free to comment below.
Read A Burns Poem
Robert Burns was famously know for his romantic songs and hundreds of poems he wrote. the most famous being Auld Lang Syne.
I have been advised the most suitable for little ones is 'To A Mouse'.
There is a free iphone app you may like to try that has all of Robert Burns poems and songs on it and also has a guide for creating a Burns Night Supper. Type in the search section 'The Works of Robert Burns' to find it on your app store.
Make a Scottish Flag or Garland
- Take a rectangular piece of blue card or paper
- cut out two strips of white paper and glue on to the card to make diagonal cross.
- take a rectangular piece of white card or paper and draw on the diagonal cross.
- Paint/ collage/ colour in the blue part of the flag the triangle sections and ask the children to leave the cross white.
Once you have made version 1 or 2 if you like you can add a straw to hold the flag or make several little flags and stick on the string using sticky tape to make a garland to decorate your room.
Make and design your own tartan collage
Ask the children to design their own tartan by providing them with a piece of paper to stick on to, glue and lots of strips and squares of material, paper and ribbon.
To make the party fun for the children as Burns Night is a massive Scottish event why not try these adapted versions of the Scottish Highland Games for the kids.
Toss the caber- Take a long cardboard tube and see who can toss it the furthest.
Hammer Throw- Take a Pillow and Tie some string around the middle of it and ask the children to throw it and see who can throw it the furthest. (you may wish to use a mini pillow for smaller rooms and younger children)
Catch the Haggis- Use beanbags as haggis and ask the children to divide into two teams and stand in a line. The children then have to compete to get the bean bag from one end of the line and back again the fastest to win by throwing it to one another.
Highland Dancing and Music
To fit in with the Scottish theme why not play the children some Scottish music. Robert Burns played the fiddle (violin) so why not find some Scottish violin music to play or if not bag pipes which are played at the start of the Supper to welcome guests. Then show the children your best highland dance moves for them to copy. Great way to get fit in the New Year.
The Burns Night Supper
The Burns Supper is a must to celebrate Burns Night. My idea is based on my little ones and has been slightly adapted for their weaker tummies. However if you feel you can stomach it then the Haggis is a must. Below is a few recipes and food suggestions for the perfect Burns Night menu.
Before starting the meal this prayer can be recited written by Burns:
"some hae meat and canna eat,
and some wad eat that want it;
but we hae meat and we can eat,
and sae the Lord be thankit."
(they may look like spelling mistakes to some but this is how it is said and spelt :). )
- 25g unsalted butter
- 1 medium whole chicken or about 500-600g chicken portions
- 2 large (or 3-4 small) leeks
- 2-2 1/4 litres chicken stock
- bouquet garni
- black pepper
- parsley for garnish
- some prunes stoned and halved (optional)
- Melt the butter in a large pot and gently fry the chicken on all sides – turning occasionally until lightly brown all over.
- Chop up the leeks and add to the pot.
- Pour in the chicken stock and add the bouquet garni.
- Cover and simmer for about 1 hour. Top up with water or more stock if necessary. If any fatty scum appears at the top simply remove with a spoon and discard.
- Season the soup to taste and simmer for a further 30 minutes.
- Remove the chicken and take the meat off the bone. Chop the meat up into pieces and add back into the soup.
- Serve up into bowls and garnish with parsley. Add the prunes if you like though this is optional.
- 1/2 lb ground lamb
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 small carrots, peeled and finely diced
- 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup pearl barley
- 1 chicken stock and 2 cups water
- 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
- salt and black pepper
- Brown the lamb in the olive oil for 3-4 minutes. Drain off the fat, and return the lamb to the pot. Add onion and carrots, and sauté for 1-2 minutes until the onion is translucent.
- Stir in the thyme, and after 30 seconds, add the barley, stock and water. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cook, covered, for 30 minutes.
- Add the sliced mushrooms, plus 2 additional cups of water. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, or until the carrots are cooked through. Taste, and season with salt and black pepper.
If you do not have time to make it from scratch you can buy the soups at the supermarkets.
Haggis or Mince
Mashed Tatties (potatoes)
Mashed Neeps (Swede/ Turnip)
Clapshot (mashed potato/ swede)
- 125g butter
- 50g caster sugar
- 175g plain flour
- 1 tablespoon milk
- Turn the oven on to gas mark 4, 180c and place a sheet of greaseproof on a baking tray.
- Mix together butter and sugar.
- Sieve in the flour and add the milk a little at a time until you make a dough.
- Wrap the dough in clingfilm and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes, this makes the dough easier to roll out.
- Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is 1cm thick.
- cut out shapes you would like as biscuits and place on the baking tray.
- Using a fork prick all the biscuits and place in the oven for 15 minutes or until lightly golden brown.
- Allow to cool before eating.
If making this recipe with or for the kids, make it without the sherry.
- 160g/ 6 oz Madeira, sponge or pound cake, halved and cut into thick slices
- 1 160g packet trifle sponges
- 3 tbsp sweet sherry
- 1 x 135g block jelly made up to one pint
- 300g/10 oz fresh strawberries or raspberries, or defrosted frozen ones plus a few extra for decoration.
- 1 500 ml packet ready made custard.
- 500ml/ 2 cups double or whipping cream, softly whipped
- Handful flaked almonds, toasted (optional)
The trifle can be made in one large glass dish or into individual glasses
- Line the bottom of the dish or glasses with the cake slices or trifle sponges.Sprinkle with the sherry and leave to soak for 5 minutes.
- If using fresh strawberries, slice thickly (reserve a few for decoration), if using frozen leave whole. Otherwise, lay the fruit evenly over the cake. Press lightly with a fork to release the juices.
- Pour over the liquid jelly making sure it covers the sponge. Place the dish into the refrigerator and leave until the jelly is set.
- Once set, spoon over the custard, again in a thick layer.
- Finally, finish with a thick layer of whipped cream either spooned over or piped using a piping bag.
- Decorate with strawberry slices or raspberries and toasted, flaked, almonds if using.
Auld Lang Syne
When the meal has finished the tradition is to sing Auld Lang Syne:
Should Old Acquaintance be forgot, and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished, and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold, that loving Breast of thine; That thou canst never once reflect On Old long syne.
- On Old long syne my Jo, On Old long syne, That thou canst never once reflect, On Old long syne.