On Wednesday January 25th, students and societies alike across St Andrews celebrated Burns Night: an occasion that commemorates the life and work of the Scottish poet Robert Burns. Burns Night celebrations traditionally include a supper of haggis, neeps, and tatties, along with readings of Burns’s poetry. I was lucky enough to attend the Burns Night Supper and Ceilidh hosted by the Saints Historical Appreciation and Period Experiences Society, also known as Soirée. Having attended and enjoyed many Soirée events before, such as their Gothic-themed Halloween party and their murder mystery dinner, I was looking forward to seeing what the society had in store for the night.
The black-tie dinner and ceilidh were held in the ballroom at the stylish Hotel du Vin on the Scores. Tickets were £48 for the Burns Supper (which included three courses, in addition to a dram of whiskey and half a bottle of wine) plus entry to the ceilidh, and there was also a £5 ticket to attend just the ceilidh, the latter of which sold out entirely. Although I did not attend the dinner, I arrived just in time for the ceilidh to start at 10 PM. After leaving my coat at the entrance, I stepped inside to find tables decorated with tartan tablecloths surrounding a dance floor in the middle of the room. It was the perfect atmosphere for a Burns Night celebration: lively and crowded, but not too chaotic or overwhelming.
The night was largely focused on dancing, with nearly everyone in the room rushing to the dance floor whenever the band started up a Dashing White Sergeant or a Canadian Barn Dance. As this was my first time attending a ceilidh, I was a bit worried about not knowing how to dance, but that didn’t turn out to be an issue. Every dance started with the band members explaining the steps before they started playing at a slow pace. After a few beats, the music would pick up, and partnered couples would spin around the dance floor, the occasional misplaced foot never seeming to slow the crowd down. The dances were spaced out enough to allow attendees to grab a drink at the bar or a glass of water and catch their breath, but still frequent enough that there was never a lull in the celebrations. Before the event, Soirée suggested on their social media for everyone to bring a change of comfortable shoes for the ceilidh, but the amount of dancing meant that I – and likely many others – went home with sore feet anyway!
In addition to hours of dancing, the ceilidh also featured a raffle with prizes including wine, sweets, savoury Scottish snacks, and a Highland cow plushie. Raffle tickets were £3 each and the winning numbers were called in between the final dances. After the last dance, everyone gathered in a circle to sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’, providing a fitting end to the Burns Night festivities.
The final dance concluded at about a quarter to midnight, and I and many of the other attendees left shortly after that – I did have a tutorial the next morning, after all! At the same time, I would have loved to keep dancing even later into the night. The Soirée committee and the Hotel du Vin hosted a fantastic night of dining, music, and dancing to celebrate Burns Night, and I look forward to attending more of their events in the future.