Winter in Scotland brings dreich weather and long dark nights, so it is not surprising that when given the chance to celebrate we Scots tend to go large. Few countries manage to celebrate Hogmanay (or New Year as you may know it) like the Scots. Indeed, as a nation we need not just one public holiday but two to recuperate.
Historically, the New Year would be ‘seen in’ with friends and family and ‘first footing’ was commonplace. Scots would eat drink and be merry into the earlier hours of January 1st and beyond.
Hogmanay was historically a bigger event in Scotland partially due to the suppression of Christmas celebrations by the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the fact that until relatively recent many Scots would have worked on Christmas day.
The city of Edinburgh holds perhaps the most famous Hogmanay party in the world. In 1996/97 an estimated 400,000 people descended upon the city to celebrate (Edinburgh’s population is approximately 450,000). The event itself was subsequently ticketed and as such numbers are limited to around 100,000.
Scotland’s beautiful Capital city has lead the way it’s Hogmanay celebrations and each year they try to outdo themselves.
If you wish to sample the delights of Hogmanay yourself you will need to plan in advance as the influx of visitors rapidly fills all the hotel, B&B, guest house and self catering apartmentsin the city.
Princess Street Gardens at the foot of Edinburgh Castle provide the main stage for the headlining musical performances. This year sees the return of The Pet Shop Boys, who were thwarted in 2006/07 as the event was cancelled due to bad weather.
In past years varied acts such as The Proclaimers, Primal Scream and Simple Minds have headlined the celebrations. However, with several sound stages, DJs and ceilidhs ( traditional Scottish dances) located within the official event site almost all tastes are catered for.
The street party traditionally involves a spectacular firework display from Castle Rock to see in the bells at midnight.
The Hogmanay Street Party is preceded by Edinburgh’s Winter Festival which begins on 24thNovember with Light Night on Princes Street. Sir Chris Hoy, local boy and hero of the 2012 Olympics will be flipping the switch to commence festivities.
A German market , ice skating rink and Ferris wheel will once take up residence in the Princes Street Garden for the duration of the festive period.
This year the Winter Festival extend further into the city centre than before with attractions and venues spring in up in George Square, The Mound, Castle Street and St Andrews Square.
New attractions including a Spiegeltent with Circus, Christmas tree maze and the St Andrew’s Square 60 metre tall Star Flyer giving those brave enough to try a new perspective on the city.
Speaking of the brave there the traditional ‘Loony Dook’ on January the first at South Queensferry in the Shadow of the Forth Rail Bridge. Revellers can ‘alleviate’ their hangovers by swimming in the Firth of Forth. Many participants will dive in while wearing fancy dress. Most will not stay in the freezing waters for very long.