Each winter thousands of people march through the streets of Edinburgh with flaming torches to celebrate the Hogmanay New Year. What could possibly go wrong?
Actually, nothing goes wrong. Complete strangers join together to walk side by side. Everyone is polite and courteous to each other. This year 35,000 people from around the world showed up to enjoy the spectacle.
Hogmanay New Year 2014
Edinburgh’s torchlight procession marks the start of celebrations for Hogmanay, Scotland’s traditional New Year festival. The word Hogmanay means “end of year”, but rather than just one day of merrymaking, this party lasts 3 days.
The roots of the holiday are not certain, but it likely has to do with the Norse winter solstice celebrations and the Gaelic festival Samhain that marked the end of the harvest season.
Held each year on December 30th, the torchlight procession begins in Edinburgh’s Old Town and makes its way through the heart of the city. The march is led by a burly squad of Shetland Up Helly Aa’ Vikings wielding flaming sticks.
Behind them, 8,500 others carry torches made from burlap & beeswax. Tens of thousands more spill out into the streets to watch. Armed with my own fiery torch, I joined in on the fun. It was windy & cold outside. But that didn’t stop anyone.
We all came together to celebrate this exceptional night, and you could feel an overwhelming sense of community spirit.
The mob marched from Old Town down through Princes Street under Edinburgh’s ancient stone buildings with wax dripping and smoke billowing in the wind. Next we hiked up Calton Hill together, lighting the way with our torches.
Perched at the top and bathed in blue light is the Scottish National Monument.
With bonfires blazing, people tried to stay warm while moving into position for the big finale. A spectacular display of fireworks soon began exploding over the monument from the hillside. They could be seen from all over the city.
As the colors faded from the sky, crowds packed into restaurants and pubs to warm up with good food and strong whisky.
Just the Beginning
After the display, it was hard to believe it wasn’t even New Year’s Eve yet! Edinburgh’s torchlight procession is just the start of the celebration, there are more fireworks and parties on December 31st.
However we would hop a train North into the Highlands to ring in the New Year from the city of Inverness.
I couldn’t have asked for a better first time to visit Scotland.
The Hogmanay experience is a special one. It’s steeped in tradition, camaraderie, and a fiery determination to embrace the new year.
Accommodation: Mercure Hotel
Useful Notes: Hogmanay is a big deal in Scotland. If you plan to visit, make sure to arrange a hotel or hostel a few months in advance. Torches can be purchased for the procession (money goes to charity), but they quickly sell out. Remember that the weather can be brutal this time of year! Dress warm, and don’t wear anything that hot dripping wax will ruin.
#blogmanay is brought to you by Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and is supported by ETAG, EventScotland, Homecoming Scotland, VisitScotland, Edinburgh Festivals, Marketing Edinburgh and Haggis Adventures. Created and produced by Unique Events. As always, all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.