I’ve written twice now about Edinburgh’s Hogmanay. The first year when I experienced it with friends and colleagues, I labeled it The Best New Years Ever. Ironically, a few weeks later I met Danté and so when I was invited back a second time, after we’d been dating almost a year, but couldn’t bring him — Hogmanay turned out to be, not the best ever, but instead just as good a party as I could experience, sans the person I love most. So, this year, Hogmanay WITH my love ended up living up to that title I gave it after my first time. It really was The Best New Years.
Not wanting to jinx the future though with words like ‘ever’, let’s just say if you asked me now where you should spend NYE, I’d never hesitate to answer, “Edinburgh” since I’ve been three times, in three different ways…Aside from the lack of balmy temperature that you’d find somewhere like the Caribbean, Scotland offers everything I’ve ever wanted for a grand celebration. And this year, the weather was unseasonably warm. Twas as if my beloved country was on her very best behavior! But I digress, here are the things I desire most for NYE:
- A Soundtrack – Music is a carrier for memories, helps cement new memories and generally helps turn good moments into GREAT moments.
- Fine Dining – I eat rather simply in my daily life so when it comes to celebrating, fine dining needs to be a part of my experience.
- Compelling History – I want to be reminded of a gilded past as I am contemplating the unknown future. There’s something about that juxtaposition that’s become very important to me over the years.
- Fireworks – I would venture a guess that ever since they were invented they’ve been used to mark special occasions, why stop that tradition now? Wink
- Good people – A real celebration can be a bit hollow when experienced alone.
- A Luxurious Home away from Home – Why be away from home in a cheap hotel, when I am traveling for a celebration, I want to be somewhere that’s better than my apartment in NYC! Otherwise, why not just stay home.
Edinburgh has all this, and more.
With hotels like The Calendonian, now a Waldorf Astoria property, giving you views of Edinburgh Castle and easy access to the street party… With Michelin-starred restaurants…. With enough compelling history to inspire writers like J.K. Rowling…. With a musical and performing arts culture so rich it helps keep 12 festivals a year in business…
And even in the years before I was able to bring Danté, I was never alone when in Scotland and I was never wanting for people who were fun to be around. The Scots are truly welcoming people who know how to have fun, while still maintaining a safe environment (something I haven’t been able to say about other places I’ve spent NYE)….
I’ll be publishing a second post about Hogmany including where we drank and dined. But I want to cover, in this post, the Street Party, the Christmas Market and the Scot:Lands even that happens on New Year’s Day.
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is actually three days of festivities total. It begins with the Torchlight Procession on December 30, continues into December 31 with the Street Party and ends on January 1 with Scot:Lands. Edinburgh’s Christmas Market is around for most of December and stays up through the first week of January.
What I love most about the Street Party is the variety of music it allows each attendee to enjoy in a relatively short amount of time. This year there were five stages and they were live from 9 PM to 1 AM. Lily Allen was the headliner at the main stage, a Scottish stage featured home grown bands such as Eddi Reader, Breabach and Ross Ainslie & Jarlath Henderson Band. Other notable bands at other stages included Twilight Sad and Young Fathers. It all culminates in the most amazing fireworks display right at midnight that takes place right above Edinburgh Castle.Danté and I primarily hung out by Hot Dub Time Machine. He kept everyone constantly moving with a rewind of the past 30 or so years of music, playing a mix that changed songs almost every minute. These images shows the crowd partying near that stage and overlooks the Scottish National Gallery as well as Princes Street Gardens and the Christmas Market in the background with its landmark ferris wheel.
Rather than take my work alone, I thought you might be interested to know that Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is the only festival to appear in the Discovery Channel’s ‘Top 25 World Travel Experiences.’
Edinburgh’s Christmas takes place in Princes Street Garden and in St. Andrew Square. Every year that I arrive in Edinburgh, I look for the Big Wheel that always sits next to the Scott Monument and it instantly puts me in the mood for a party. It has become my orientating landmark. Alongside that are booths featuring handmade gifts for sale, sweets and savory bites and souvenirs to take home for friends and family. At St. Andrew Square the market offers something extra special for adults with a circular ice skating rink that wraps around the temporary Monument Bar and a stage that this year featured the Australian group Briefs who put on their Gay Burlesque show to a daring audience, inciting riotous laughter that could probably be heard for several city blocks. Danté and I both went in a little afraid of what the show would entail, but we both walked out saying we’d see it again. It was more fun than I’d had at any dramatic show in a long time.
There’s also a Keilidh where you can dance the night away in traditional form with swinging arms and flying kilts. I have two left feet so I’ve not yet joined in but I think if I go back to Edinburgh a fourth time, I might just have to give it a try. Something so traditional probably shouldn’t be skipped!
There’s also the Loony Dook on New Year’s Day which I’ve now attended twice.
But this year it was Scot:Lands on January 1 that was, for me, the singular most entertaining part of Hogmanay this year. It takes place in secret venues throughout the city, and is described as:
“a cosmic journey across Edinburgh’s Old Town, the newly discovered constellation of Scot:Lands. Discover incredible new worlds in secret venues […] with the very best in music, art and theatre created and curated by Scotland’s most innovative artists and musicians.”
After visiting the starting point for the entire event, my favorite museum in Edinburgh, the National Museum of Scotland (I love its great hall with geometric railings and incredible artifacts from all over the world) — we then proceeded to a dark space, Assembly Roxy, that I could tell was old with soaring beams and a quiet song unfolding from a solo mic. From moment one I was hooked. We spun the wheel to find out where we’d proceed next. We also experienced more rousing music at McEwan Hall where the venue alone was enough to impress. I was told that they once filmed a movie there and the gorgeous murals were actually created especially for that story, but then kept because of the historic nature, and fitting theme, of the works. I would never have known myself, believing the venue to be an ideal place to enjoy the native Scottish bands that kept my foot tapping and my heart soaring into the highest heights.
Of course, those three days of festivities are more than enough to make a journey to Edinburgh worthwhile and the city itself is so magical in the long nights of the winter season. But I’ve also come to look forward to the time in greater Scotland that usually follows Hogmanay itself. More on that in a future post! And you can read Dante’s post about Hogmanay here.
These experiences were part of #blogmanay which is brought to you by Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and is supported by ETAG, EventScotland, VisitS