The first supper was held in memoriam at Burns Cottage by
Robert Burns' friends on 21 July 1801, the fifth anniversary of his death,
it has been a regular occurrence ever since. The first still extant Burns
club was founded in Greenock in 1801 by merchants born in Ayrshire, some of
whom had known Burns. They held the first Burns supper on what they thought
was his birthday, 29 January 1802, but in 1803 they discovered in Ayr parish
records that his date of birth was 25 January 1759. Since then, suppers have
been held on or about 25 January.
Burns suppers may be formal or informal. Both typically include haggis (a traditional Scottish dish celebrated by Burns in Address to a Haggis), Scotch whisky, and the recitation of Burns' poetry. The Burns Supper is an institution of Scottish life; a night to celebrate the life and works of the national Bard. Suppers can range from an informal gathering of friends to a huge, formal dinner full of pomp and circumstance.