Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Whatever you do, don’t call it New Year’s Eve. We’re in Edinburgh, after all, and we call it Hogmanay here. And it’s not just a fancy name for something celebrated all over the world. No, it encompasses three days of festivities filled with torchlight processions, street parties, fireworks, concerts, ceilidhs, and competitions.
Going to Edinburgh for Hogmanay was a particularly special event for me. My grandparents got married on December 31, 1932, and this would have been their 80th wedding anniversary. Given that my grandmother was born and raised in Scotland, it felt like a good way to pay homage to their memories.
And create some of my own. One of the most memorable events of Hogmanay was the torchlight procession on Sunday night. Thousands of people gathered outside of the National Museum of Scotland to participate in the annual tradition of carrying blazing sticks through the streets to Calton Hill.
The procession was beautiful, with so many lights giving the city a soft orange glow. At the end, there was a short fireworks display where we celebrated the opening of Hogmanay (and the fact that nobody lit themselves on fire).
The following day Hogmanay was in full swing. The streets were busy with visitors from all over the world that had come to Edinburgh to celebrate. Princes Street was cordoned off to make room for a huge street party, and the gardens below it were transformed into a concert venue and ceilidh dance floor.
All around, carnival rides lit up the night sky and Edinburgh Castle loomed silently atop its dormant volcano. Just before midnight, the music stopped and the countdown was followed by a short fireworks show and a rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne.
Overall it was a good evening. It was a bit crowded at times and the headlining band—a one-hit wonder from the 80’s—was a bit of a letdown given the high profile of the event, but it was so cold by the time the clock struck 12 that most people were ready to head indoors anyway.
Speaking of cold, on New Year’s Day Hogmany continued with a series of outdoor events that required varying degrees of warm clothing. I chose to attend Dogmanay, which, as the name implies, was a canine-inspired festival in Holyrood Park. From sled racing competitions to pavilions featuring dog toys and face painting (for humans, thankfully), the year kicked off with lots of furry excitement.
Not far from there, the annual Loony Dook took place. Over a thousand people gathered along the shores of the Firth of Forth, some dressed in crazy costumes, and some just plain crazy themselves. I say this because all of them jumped in for a new year’s swim in the freezing water!
Crazy or not, it was a creative culmination to three days of celebrations. Spending Hogmanay in Edinburgh was something I had wanted to do for a long time, and I was happy to have had the chance, especially on such a special New Year’s Eve—whoops, I said it—for my family.