08 January 2011


New Years has always been one of my favorite nights. I love the fact that it's celebrated all across the world throughout the night. The moment it hits midnight, everyone is sublimely happy. This year, it was particularly special -- I got to celebrate in Edinburgh. I made the choice to cut my break a little short so that I could be back in time for Hogmanay. Note: my parents, the wise sages that they are, gave me a video camera for Christmas, so this post will be filled with videos that I took. Get excited.

(View of the Edinburgh skyline on 12/30 from Calton Hill)

Hogmanay is not a random name for a NYE -- it is actually a Scots word meaning "last day of the year." From December 30th to January 1st, Edinburgh does it up right. The ferris wheel from the Christmas markets is left up and running, but there are many more goodies added. From The Mound to Princes Street, there is a full-on carnival going on. At night the city was lit up with twinkling, colorful lights -- complete with swirling searchlights and blaring music coming from each ride.

The Hogmanay festival takes place over the couple days surrounding New Year's Eve. There are events each day, and you can pick and choose which you want to attend. The kickoff event is the Torchlight Procession on December 30th, with the main event being the Street Party on New Year's Eve.

Torchlight Procession 12/30

At 6:30 on the dot began the Torchlight Procession. Everyone collected a torch, which was basically a huge candle and gathered on the Royal Mile outside St. Giles Cathedral. At final count, it was estimated that 25,000 people were in attendance -- so you can only imagine how crowded the street was. When the torches were being lit, we suddenly realized how potentially dangerous the event could be. With my hair down, I was very aware that if someone stepped just a little too close, my head could go up in flames. Add to that the worry that I could end the evening with a huge scorch mark on my coat, and I was a slightly twitchy attendee.

(Getting ready to begin! Very excited.)

(The Scottish love their fireworks, which were the starting gun for the event.)

(Video of us finding our way down the Mound in the middle of a sea of torches.)

Starting at St. Giles, we slowly wound our way down the Mound, past the old bank and National Gallery, where we turned right onto Princes Street. From there we
slowly walked to the base of Calton Hill, which was perhaps the slowest climb ever with how many people were there. Once at the top, Elizabeth, Alexis, and I walked as far as we could so that we could see the ceremony that they had planned. Although we certainly weren't one of the first in line for the procession, we somehow got prime seats at the very front.

Once everyone was settled on top of Calton Hill, it was time to begin. First was the traditional bonfire. For this Hogmanay, a group of Shetland Vikings led the Torchlight Procession, so it was only fitting that they set a Viking ship on fire. This particular portion of the event was a little...strange...to say the least. We all couldn't help but find it completely surreal and hilarious to see a Viking ship up in flames while music is blaring.

Following the bonfire was a performance by some bagpipers, which I always love. (I swear, I'm going to come home with a set of bagpipes that I cannot even remotely play. They make a nice centerpiece for a table, right?) The evening was capped off with more fireworks. We were so close to the fireworks that ash was falling into our eyes, which just made the whole evening that more ridiculous.

Street Party 12/31

The Street Party was, without a doubt, one of the coolest ways that I have ever spent NYE. It was exactly how it sounds -- a massive outdoor street party. The entire city center was blocked off. The area between the Royal Mile and Princes Street was dedicated to the
celebration, and you needed a ticket to get in. Elizabeth, Alexis, and I arrived at about
10:00, so the party was already in full swing. Since it was outdoors, we put all of our getting ready effort into our necks-up. We all bought cute hats to wear and spent a good 30 minutes meticulously applying our make up. The result? A few young ladies that know how to rock their puffy jackets and cushy boots.

Perhaps my favorite part of the evening was all of the new friends that we made in the streets of Edinburgh. Everyone was in such a festive mood, so the friendliness of Scotland was amped up another 10 notches. At different points we met people from Glasgow, Inverness, Spain, California, and even a young gentleman from Fox Lake, IL.

After stocking up on drinks from the beer tent and watching a reject from X-Factor perform, we wandered down to Princes Street, where it was packed(!) with people. We wanted to be in the thick of it all when midnight hit, and we certainly were. At midnight we got another fireworks show, but off the castle this time.

It was such a great experience, and I will definitely try to come back to Edinburgh for NYE in the future. It was wonderful having Elizabeth and Alexis visiting. I got to show each of them the city for the first time, which was all the more special because of the Hogmanay set-up. Plus, as I told Elizabeth, it wouldn't be the same to have a New Year's without her. We've known each other for 10 years now, and we have spent the last 5 (or 6?) New Year's together -- so it was nice to keep my tradition with Elizabeth and begin a new one with Alexis.

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