Burns Night honors the iconic Scottish poet Robert Burns, who wrote the New Year’s Eve anthem Auld Lang Syne. Many Scots host a Burns supper on January 25, the poet’s birthday, although they can be held throughout the year. Some of the suppers can be grand affairs; others less formal. The events will often feature a bagpiper or traditional Scottish music, and the Scottish pudding, Haggis, is served.
Burns Night timeline
Robert Burns is born in Alloway, Scotland.
Burns publishes his first poetry collection, "Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect," also known as the "Kilmarnock Edition," which popularizes and promotes the Scottish language and is considered one of his most important legacies.
His first child, Elizabeth 'Bess' Burns, is born to his mother's servant, Elizabeth Paton, while he is pursuing a relationship with another woman, Jean Armour.
Burns falls in love with Mary Campbell, the inspiration for some of his most famous romantic poems.
Burns marries Jean Armour and he writes one of the most widely known songs in the world, typically sung on New Years' Eve, 'Auld Lang Syne.'
Burns dies at the age of 37 in Dumfries, Scotland.
His friends host this event on the fifth anniversary of his death at Burns Cottage, the poet's former residence.
Burns is voted 'The Greatest Scot Ever' by the Scottish public.
How to Observe Burns Night
Read some poetry
Choose from either the four-volume "Poetry of Robert Burns," or the "Reliques of Robert Burns," which also includes his collection of folk songs, letters, and criticism. You'll find the roots of Romanticism in his books, along with evidence of his love affair with Scotland.
Host a Burns supper
Find some haggis at your local specialty grocer and host a Burns supper for your literary friends. Put on some traditional Scottish music while your guests read some of Burns' works.
Bone up on your Scottish literary history
Understand why Burns and other Scottish poets are such revered historical figures in Scotland, and why they're a huge part of Scotland's cultural landscape.
Read These 5 Robert Burns Poems
Often recited on Halloween in Scotland, this poem was written in both English and Scottish.
"To a Louse"
In this poem, Burns imagines a louse crawling into a lady's bonnet in church.
"Red Red Rose"
Bob Dylan has cited this famous romantic poem as a major lyrical inspiration.
This long poem tells the tale of a farmer who likes to spend more time drinking with his mates than with his impatient wife.
"To a Mouse"
This Burns poem inspired Steinbeck's famous novel "Of Mice and Men."
Why Burns Night is Important
He's Scotland's national poet
Burns, born in 1759, wrote many of Scotland's most famous poems and remains a revered literary figure. He was a leader of the Romantic movement and helped inspire liberalism and socialism.
Scotland is a land of poets
Poetry's in the bloodstream of Scotland. Burns inspired many poets following his death, and perhaps no other country is more associated with poetry. Volumes of Scottish collections have been published over the centuries — many becoming bestsellers.
Burns came from humble circumstances
Burns was born into poverty near Ayr, on Scotland's west coast. As a child, his family moved around the country looking for a better life. No one could've predicted he would become one of Scotland's most famous figures.
Burns Night dates