In years gone by Scotland had the tradition of gathering in a public square to see in the New Year, followed by “first footing” – visiting friends and family. First person over the threshold was preferably tall and dark – the dark hair signifying they were unlikely to be a Viking and “up to no good”. And the traditional thing to bring along was a lump of coal for the fire as well as perhaps, some shortbread, whisky or a dense fruit cake called Black Bun).
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay has come a long way since then, when the crowds gathered round the Tron Kirk on the Royal Mile for the Bells and then faded away. This was largely down to the vision of Peter Irvine, the man behind the Scotland the Best guide book.
By 2014 the event has grown to three days of activities and illuminations to brighten up this darkest time of the year.
The event that heralds the New Year is the torchlight procession. I’ve watched it snake through the town in the past , but have never walked along with it before, as I did this time. It’s an impressive sight, all those thousands of folk with their torches. And despite the fire and the crowds everything passes off safely and with good humour.
The final destination is the top of Calton hill where a huge bonfire was lit. Gazing at it, and in the presence of “Vikings” down from Shetland, I couldn’t help think of those people down the centuries who must have been captivated by similar fires. At that moment I felt aware of some kind of common thread linking us all – right back to those who might have been gathered around huge fires at sites like the mysterious settlement at the Ness of Brodgar on Orkney. It was just magical – no other word for it.
The spectacular finale was a son et lumiere that danced around the whole of the hilltop – from the skies above the bonfire, to the National Monument and the Nelson Monument. To the sound of Skyfall the stars blazed around us , glittered and exploded. A fitting way to say goodbye to a year if ever there was one.
#blogmanay is brought to you by Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and is supported by ETAG, Event Scotland, Visit Scotland, Year of Food and Drink Scotland and co -creators Haggis Adventures. Created and produced by Unique Events . As always , all opinions expressed here are my own.