Alan and I aren’t what you’d call New Year’s Eve people. We don’t really need a reason to go out and drink all night when we can pretty much do that any damn time we want. But seriously, NYE for us – generally speaking – has been a bit of a let down. And yet, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Festival has been on my bucket list since the very first time I read about it.
Hogmanay is the Scots word for the last day of the year and is synonymous with the celebration of the New Year (Gregorian calendar) in the Scottish manner. It is normally followed by further celebration on the morning of New Year’s Day (1 January) or, in some cases, 2 January—a Scottish bank holiday. The origins of Hogmanay are unclear, but it may be derived from Norse and Gaelic observances. Customs vary throughout Scotland, and usually include gift-giving and visiting the homes of friends and neighbours, with special attention given to the first-foot, the first guest of the new year. The Edinburgh Hogmanay celebrations are among the largest in the world. Celebrations in Edinburgh in 1996–97 were recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest New Years party, with approximately 400,000 people in attendance. Numbers have since been restricted due to safety concerns.
Once tickets went on sale in 2015, I registered us for the torch like procession and the street festival on December 31. From there, I rented us a flat smack dab in the middle of Old Town’s Grassmarket neighborhood with a view of the castle, which turned out to be *excellent* forethought. You see, I thought I’d booked us exclusive tickets for that night, but when we arrived and got our wrist bands learned that our tickets only granted us access to the party area, not the exclusive party area. Since I generally dislike people – and really, really hate people who can’t hold their liquor – this turned out to be a bit of a problem since we were basically surrounded by 10,000 drunk idiots. In the end, we walked back to our flat, opened a bottle of bubbly, and watched the fireworks over the castle from our window sill. It was amazing. And the next day? We got up bright and early for dim sum, our New Years Day tradition going back more than a decade now, in some far, out of the way neighborhood before being taken to the airport. It was a crazy, wonderful, overwhelming weekend and I’m so happy we did it. Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to and seeing it all gussied up for the festival made it that much more scenic. If Hogmanay is something you’ve been thinking about doing, but have been on the fence about, I definitely recommend it. Heck, I’d go for the torchlit processional alone!