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Hogmanay in Edinburgh

New Year’s Eve is marked by special events in all the world’s major capitals. However, few take it so seriously as the people of Edinburgh. Hogmanay, as the festivity is known in Scotland, dates from the 16th century. Pagan in origin, it was brought to Scotland by early Gaelic and Viking settlers. The liturgy for Hogmanay was simple – it was customary to visit the homes of friends and neighbours just before midnight in order to be the first to cross the threshold carrying small gifts like fruit cake, whisky, biscuits or salt to celebrate the occasion. With a tradition of nearly six hundred years to back it, Hogmanay has become one of the most important festivities in Scotland and a tourist magnet for anyone wishing to experience a different New Year’s Eve. The celebrations are long drawn out, crammed with activities marrying culture and entertainment and featuring an extensive review of Scottish history. One interesting statistic – in the mid-nineties, the Guinness Book of Records rated Hogmanay the biggest New Year’s Eve celebration in the world, with over 400,000 celebrators each year.

The upcoming Hogmanay, which will mark the passage from 2016 to 2017, will be held from 30 December to 1 January, a very full weekend during which numerous special events will be hosted at various venues in Edinburgh. In effect, the celebration provides visitors with a unique opportunity to discover the city’s most emblematic landmarks in just three days. Two tips about coming well prepared – be sure to bring both sturdy trainers and thick coats, as the temperatures in Scotland at this time of year are icy cold. Having said that, let’s go over the highlights of the festival.

The standout event is without doubt the Street Party, held in an area sectioned off in the city centre, and set against the backdrop of famous Edinburgh Castle. Various shows are staged from 7 o’clock in the evening of 31 December until 1 in the morning. One of the highlights is the musical fireworks display, held to see out 2016 and bring in 2017. A varied programme of top-notch musical performances will be hosted before and after that event at various venues. From the independent pop of The Charlatans – one of the most acclaimed British groups, with a track record of four decades – to the traditional Celtic sound of Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton, to jazz gigs by James Brown is Annie and Brass Gumbo. There is even a slot for DJs to plug their hits.

Another show you simply cannot miss is the Torchlight Procession. Scheduled for 30 December, the parade files through Edinburgh’s Old Town and is a charity event long associated with Hogmanay. The dynamics of the procession are simple – you can attend as a spectator or purchase a torch for twelve pounds and join the mass march past, which ends with the lighting of a huge bonfire, a sound and light show and a fireworks display which will be visible from various parts of the city.

We wind up this review of the highlights of Hogmanay (there are many events, which you can check out here) with the grand finale, the Final Fling, featuring Gaelic folk dances. The Final Fling will be held in the Grand Hall of the National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street, with Heeliegoleerie as the guest stars. Heeliegoleerie are one of Scotland’s most well-established bands who perform at the Ceilidh, an ancestral Scottish festival which acts as a social gathering and also hosts music and dances.

Come and experience Hogmanay for yourself – book your Vueling to Edinburgh here.

Text by Xavi Sánchez for Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS