Scottish migrants fostered a range of cultural activities in the new worlds in which they settled, thereby identifying themselves as a distinct ethnic group. Celebrations of Scotland's national bard, Robert Burns, were the one recurring theme within all sites of settlement. The iconic figure of Burns is, in fact, central to the formulation, expression and commemoration of a Scottish cultural identity around the world. The present article explores the function of Burns celebrations in colonial Otago, the Scottish heartland of New Zealand. The celebrations were a key part of the Scots' associational culture in Otago, serving as an important social occasion within the Scottish community bounds and in wider Otago society. Moreover, the celebrations were effective sites of memory, employing familiar memory narratives and practices; these framed events and provided the initial common denominator that bound Scots and non-Scots together.