Edinburgh Torch Procession: Hogmanay

The sweet fragrance of wax wafted through the air, mingling with the smoke as it drifted up into the faded yellow sky. Everywhere pinpricks of light cut through the black: distant city lights, the delicate specks of fairy lights and the dazzling dances of flames flickering from 8,000 torches. The streets were on fire.

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From “Hoggo-nott”, the Scandinavian word for the feast preceding Yule, to the Flemish words “hoog min dag” which mean “great love day”, Hogmanay–the Scottish New Year–has an interesting set of theorized origins. Aside from the two above, it can also be traced back to the Anglo-Saxon, Haleg monath (Holy Month) or the Gaelic, oge maidne, new morning. But the most likely source seems to be the French “Homme est né” or “Man is born”!

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It’s believed the vikings–with their intense focus on the shortest days of the year–imported the celebration, and with the help of a 400 year ban on Christmas the holiday thrived. There are many traditions, including:

  • first-footing: where right after midnight you are visited by friends and neighbors. A tall, dark person bearing gifts is considered very good luck (especially if you like him ;))!
  • redding: where a house is made squeaky clean before the new year.
  • poetry reading: the Scots love poems and songs just as much as the English love their puns.
  • a massive game of keep-away: two sides of a village try to get one stick.
  • and my favourite: setting things on fire.

Stonehaven, a town in northeast Scotland, is especially famous for its focus on traditional fire activities. The appex of the night involves people lighting balls of paper and chicken-wire on fire and swinging them around their heads (I’m not joking look)!

Guess where I’ll be next year. Hee.

This year however I thought I’d start small. I entered the Edinburgh Torch Procession with my partner, J.

It. Was. Astonishing. And enlightening *snicker*.

Yes. The night was full of fire and light references: flame on! This really lit up my night! My burning passion! Oo, you’ve been burrrrnned.

I’m sure we burned many bridges potentially leading to friendship sparks with these terrible jokes, but hey at least we were fired up.

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Edinburgh had many events going on in the three days leading up to New Year’s Eve—a ceilidh, outdoor party, candle lit orchestra, etc— but I definitely had to participate in this parade! It was at the top of my list. The must. And to be honest I forgot about the other events until the day, and then they were full… so plan/buy ahead!

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Check out what it was like to walk within the procession! If you want a short and sweet view of the event, click on the top video. If, however, you have the time, and the curiousity, go to the second video for commentary on each phase of the night!

I like to think J and I are quite funny, but we’ll have to see haha. If you like our blend of humour and wit leave a comment saying so! It’ll inspire us to keep at it!

If you don’t though, well just tell us not to quit our day jobs please XD.

Torch Tips

Budget: £12 for a torch ticket.

Age group: I saw kids in strollers (buggies) so, an age you are comfortable with. I wouldn’t recommend small children.

Clothes: You will get wax on your clothes. Bring a coat you don’t adore, but dress warm. Despite all the fire and people it’s still cool.

Culture: Relaxed. You might have to stand in line for a long time to snag a good spot. Wear good shoes and bring good friends. Aim for the front of the procession so you can get to the top of Calton Hill before it gets too full!

Food: Plenty of restaurants nearby, though it is the expensive part of town. We went to Wildest Drams and caught their awesome lunch deal: two courses for £12.50 or three courses for £15 (as of Dec 2015).

Transport: The car traffic must be horrendous. You can take a train in and stop off at Waverly Station. The location is good, but the trains don’t run terribly late so you will have to leave before it ends.

Time: The torch procession itself fits in one evening. The entire event is about three days long.

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