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Making Burn's Supper Fun for Kids

Haggis eating: It will put hairs on yer broilleach

Haggis eating: It will put hairs on yer broilleach

A Burn Supper can be full of tradition, pomp, and ceremony enough to put adults to sleep, never mind kids. I try to avoid these kinds of Burns Suppers. If forced to go, I try to disrupt them. I tell myself that this is my dutiful way to honor the Bard, and that he would approve.

For instance, in these boring affairs, at some point they will, with great ceremony, pipe in a steaming great haggis. Then someone, again with great ceremony, will faithfully recite Address To A Haggis. Everyone in Scotland knows the first verse of this poem...

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,

Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!

Aboon them a' yet tak your place,

Painch, tripe, or thairm:

Weel are ye wordy o'a grace

As lang's my arm.

Everyone in Scotland knows the first verse because they have heard it at so many Burns Suppers. They only know the first verse because they always fell asleep for the rest. That is aside from the poor birkies who were elected to recite it, and had to learn the whole thing.

The Screaming Solution

I no longer sleep during this poem. By the time they have piped in the haggis, I am well into my mischief plans. I round up all the kids (if there are no kids invited, you can always hire some street kids and sneak them in the back way). I secretly prepare them to scream, loud as they can, on my cue. Then, as the Haggis Reciter reaches the lines:

His knife see rustic Labour dight, An' cut you up wi' ready sleight

And he pulls out his sgian-dubh (his sock-knife), and cuts into the haggis, I cue the kids, and we all scream as loud as we can.

This usually startles the crowd, and they all spin around and stare at us. Then, nervously, they begin to laugh, and I know we have improved the whole mood of the event. Sometimes ,though, all the adults glower at the disruption.

I've only ever been thrown out of one Burns Supper.

Haggis Eating Contest

Another great idea to make a Burns Supper fun is a Haggis Eating Contest. I have included pictures here of just such a contests at the Ketchikan Burns Supper, 2018.

The Haggis: Will he hold it, or give it back?

The Haggis: Will he hold it, or give it back?

He Held the Haggis and won the prize

He held his Haggis and won the prize

Tae a Moose – the Cruel Way

Everyone talks about great compassion of the Bard in his poem Tae a Moose (reproduced here), and how he wrote this poem about a poor wee field mouse that he had turned out of her nest with his plow.

But how do we know that that was what really happened? Maybe he stopped the plow to chase the mouse. Maybe, whilst saying:

Thou need na start awa sae hasty, Wi' bickering brattle! I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee, Wi' murd'ring pattle!

He was actually trying to sneak up on her, and murder her with his pattle. Finally, when he calmed down, he got guilty, and then he wrote the poem!

That, at least, is the way I enact the poem when I recite it. First I get all the kids to practice being wee mice. We also have one rule: no matter what happens, none of us can leave the room where the poem is recited. Then later, as I start the poem, they all stand in front, wee paws held up in front of themselves. Then while I recite the lines, I try to sneak up on them and whack them with a big stick. Pandemonium ensues. There are some pictures here.

Other Ideas

These are just a few ideas for fun things to do with kids at a Burns Supper. Burns poetry is full of opportunities to involve kids in the poetry itself and the traditions of Scotland, as well as making your Burns Supper a raving fun success. What about a Flea Hunt during To A Louse? Or an enactment of the Witch Chase in Tam o' Shanter? If you try any of these, or have any other ideas, do please drop me a line about it.


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