Robert Burns Party Theme Ideas

Updated February 21, 2017

For a party that celebrates Robert Burns, pay tribute to the poet by reading selections from his work and enjoying traditional Scottish food, drink and entertainments. Known as the "People's Poet" for his work's very human themes, or as "the Bard of Scotland" for his place in its national letters, Burns inspires celebration more than 250 years after his birth. Celebrate "Burns Night" on January 25th, or any time of the year, with a party that works the bard's theme into all of its details.

Poetry Readings

The centrepiece of any Robert Burns party should be a reading of carefully selected works. Include his best-known poems, such as "My Luve Is Like a Red Red Rose" and "Auld Lang Syne." Include children in the recitations, with accessible poems such as "To a Mouse." Before serving up a Scots-style meal, read "Address to a Haggis" to whet your guests' appetites. Round things out with humorous poems such as "Willie Wastle," about the unfortunately married gentleman who "Sic a wife as Willie had, I wad na gie a button for her." For guests unfamiliar with Robert Burns and the language of his period and homeland, provide printed copies of the poems with modern English "translations" or keys.


Outfit your party in Scottish style, and serve up traditional food and drink favourites like a full-service pub. For the bravest epicures, make authentic haggis with sheep's stomach, liver, heart and tongue, minced suet, onions, oats, salt, pepper and herbs. For those preferring a milder introduction to Scots cuisine, serve smoked salmon or another fresh fish, lamb or beef. Finish things off with a dessert made of stewed or fresh berries, or the delectable cranachan, made of raspberries, honey, whipped cream and whiskey. For beverages, serve any takers the finest whiskey your budget will allow.

Costume, Decor and Invitations

Incorporate the Scottish theme in dress, decor and invitations. If you invite any guests of Scottish parentage, encourage them to wear traditional tartans and Highlands dress. For a musical party, hire a bagpipe player to entertain your guests. Ask ahead if the musician will play some of the many Robert Burns poems that have been set to music. For decor, keep things simple. You might hang a few flags of Scotland or set up cosy lighting to evoke the feeling of being within a pub. If you hold the festivities outside, a bonfire will add to the romance of a poetry reading, and on Burns Night, it will warm up the late January air.

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About the Author

Danielle Hill has been writing, editing and translating since 2005. She has contributed to "Globe Pequot" Barcelona travel guide, "Gulfshore Business Magazine," "Connecting Lines: New Poetry from Mexico" and "The Barcelona Review." She has trained in neuro-linguistic programming and holds a Bachelor of Arts in comparative literature and literary translation from Brown University.