The great highland bagpipes strike in from the distance, and moments later a door flings open and in marches the piper playing ‘A Man’s A Man For A’ That‘, the legendary 18th century Robert Burns poem/song about human equality and liberty. Close on the piper’s brogues, the knife bearer and raconteur of Burn’s equally famous “Ode to a Haggis”. And rounding out the procession – the chef responsible for cooking “the great chieftain o’the puddin race”, which has been placed on a silver platter and hoisted above heads as he ceremoniously follows the piper and knife-bearer to the head table.
Poems, songs, toasts and kilts; it’s a memorable evening of food, whisky and entertainment to celebrate a great Scottish culture and the life of Scotland’s greatest poet who lived from 1759 to 1796.
From the official Burns Club of Vancouver to the Legion, Masonic and many pipe band Burns suppers throughout the Lower Mainland, there are a dozen Burns events being held on January 25, 2014 (or near to it) that celebrate the birth of Scotland’s poet laureate. The Burns Supper Season is a great reason to don your kilt and hosiery, host a few glasses of “uisge beatha” (Water of Life: whisky) and to indulge in an evening of great music, great friends and mediocre food.
As a piper, I have marched in the haggis at Burns suppers around Canada for more than 20 years. From dinners organized by the officers of the British Air Force in Goose Bay, Labrador to a Legion on Bowen Island, BC. Each event was memorable (although that depends on the amount of whisky provided to the piper). It is a great time of the year to celebrate. One month after Christmas and well into the winter doldrums heading into a distant spring.
Here’s a list of six great Burns Suppers. Please send me your details if you would like to add to this list.
- The largest and most popular Burns Supper is the Delta Police Pipe Band event at the end of January, 2014. This will be the 39th annual event and one that has grown so popular that it is held over two nights (Friday and Saturday) to accommodate the large number of people who join in. This is also a major fundraiser for the pipe band and includes piping, dancing and of course the traditional piping in of the haggis, the recitation of “Ode to a Haggis” and toasts to wives and girlfriends (‘may they never meet’). Friday night, January 24 is already sold out. Tickets to the Saturday supper are still available ($55) but you best act fast. More information is available here
- Across town, the six-time world champions Simon Fraser University Pipe Band will host their annual Burns Supper fundraising event on Saturday, January 25. ($70). This event also sells out very quickly for good reason. Both the SFU Pipe Band under new pipe major Alan Bevan and the 2012 Grade III world champions Robert Malcolm Memorial Pipe Band will play. The supper takes place at the Executive Plaza Hotel in Coquitlam. Festivities include piping, highland dancing, a traditional roast beef dinner, haggis and a silent auction. Proceeds go toward the Robert Malcolm Memorial Pipe Bands. Tickets are on sale now and more information about the supper can be found here.
- Not to be outdone, cross-town rivals, the Grade I Dowco Triumph Street Pipe Band which placed 10th in the top grade level in the world competition in August, also hosts an annual Robert Burns Supper and fundraiser. This is a great event usually held in Burnaby and often sold out. Details on this event have not yet been posted but check out the band website (see link above) for more information later this year.
- The venerable Vancouver Club will host their 2014 Burns Supper ($125) on January 26, with pipers from the Dowco Triumph St. Pipe Band.
- The traditional Haggis dinner and of course a rousing performance by pipers and drummers will constitute the 2014 rendition of the Vancouver Police Pipe Band Burns supper ($55). The event is being held on January 25 at the Ukrainian Catholic Church, 550 W. 14th Ave. Vancouver, BC, V5Z 4N5
- Across Vancouver Harbour in North Vancouver, the J.P. Fell Pipe Band will again host their annual Robert Burns Suppers. The event will be held a week earlier than most, on January 18. The dinner will be served up with pipers and drummers at 1513 Forbes Ave, North Vancouver. Check the band website for more details as we get closer to the date.
Here are a few more Burns suppers. I will add more as information becomes available: