For years, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay party has been one of the top New Year’s Eve Celebrations in the world. This year, Underbelly took over the management of the festivities and raised them to a whole new level. With over 75,000 locals and visitors in attendance, Edinburgh showed the world how to ring in the New Year.
Alright, perhaps it’s my personal opinion that Hogmanay is the best New Years celebration in the world, but check out what kind of activities were put on this year to herald 2018 as the Scottish Year of Young People. Times Square has nothing on this!
The torchlight procession kicks off Edinburgh’s Hogmanay activities. Following a new route this year, 20,000 torchbearers walked down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, past the Parliament building and Royal Palace, and into Holyrood Park where professional “people movers” positioned them to spell out a word Scotland had picked to represent the Year of Young People. They were lead by the Vikings who put on Scotland’s Up Helly Aa Festival in the Shetland Islands (the youngest of which was 5 years old!), while an estimated 25,000 spectators watched from the sidewalks and slopes of Salisbury Crag. The word they spelled out in the park was #BRAW, meaning “grand, fine, super or beautiful.” Braw was in answer to the question “What makes you proud to live in Scotland?” and was selected because of its positivity and uniqueness to Scotland.
I had a chance to walk ahead of the procession, filming as it went and viewing the line of torchbearers which stretched all the way back to the Royal Mile even after the word was spelled out.
Hogmanay’s New Year’s Eve Celebration
There were six events on New Year’s Eve put on by Underbelly. The first was Bairns Afore, a family-friendly event in the Princes Street Gardens. It opened at 4 p.m. and had its own fireworks show at 5:50 which I caught from the North Bridge above Waverley Train Station.
The rest of the events all coincided, leading up to the final countdown. There was the famous Street Party on Princes Street, featuring three band stages, food and beverage bars, small entertainment stages and more. Beneath the castle, a huge dance floor was constructed for the Ceilidh Under the Castle, featuring the Scottish ceilidh dance performed by the audience. In the Princes Street Gardens was the Concert in the Gardens, featuring Rag’n’Bone Man (the guy who sings the famous song Human). There was also the Candlelit Concert in St. Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile, and the exclusive Hogmanay HQ with a bottle of champagne, buffet dinner and VIP party.
I didn’t make it to those last two events, but I saw the beginning of the Ceilidh, walked back and forth in the street party to see the different stages, climbed the Scott Monument to capture one of the pre-show fireworks (at 9, 10 and 11 p.m.) and stood in front of the stage to catch the final fireworks show, which was nearly nine minutes long (instead of the usual six), choreographed to a track by Nightworks and followed by Auld Lang Syne.
The final event of Hogmanay was Loony Dook, where revelers jumped into the freezing waters of the Firth of Forth. Many jumped in for charities, while others braved the water just for the fun of it. I was fully planning to go in myself, as I’ve enjoyed similar swims in Scotland and Sweden, but I didn’t wake up in time, having enjoyed the previous night’s festivities until too late. However, I had a friend who was happy to dunk herself in the water.
I’ve been watching the Hogmanay celebrations on YouTube for years, and being there in person was a dream come true for me. Underbelly has the honor of hosting Hogmanay for at least the next two years, and I’m looking forward to seeing if next year’s event is even better. Will you be there?