#blogmanay – TorchLight Procession – The start of Edinburgh Hogmanay


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 byETAG,EventScotland,VisitScotland,and co-creators Haggis Adventures. Created and produced byUnique Events. As always, all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.


Sparkling Edinburgh

december star

In winter Edinburgh can get pretty dark and gloomy. So its just as well that there are so many reasons to festoon the city with as many lights as possible. In recent years there seem to be ever more, and that is just fine by me. The more lights in the darkness the better.







From the end of November onwards there are more and more lights added until by the time New Year comes the city is a riot of lights.

The Christmas market , ice skating and high flying rides are still in full swing if you fancy a wee whirl into Edinburgh in the next couple of days.

#blogmanay is brought to you by Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and is supported byETAG,EventScotland,VisitScotland,and co-creators Haggis Adventures. Created and produced byUnique Events. As always, all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

7 Ways to start 2009 with a Spring in your Step.

Gothenburg Lanterns

Gothenburg Lanterns

I think the shifting of the  New Year from the autumn, as the Celts had it, to the middle of winter, did us all a bit of a disservice. Somehow when the days are at their shortest it seems the most difficult to summon the energy to plan for a new year. As a bit of an experiment I made some of my  New Year decisions in October this year and it did feel much more gentle.

Even so, I am not immune to the mood that strikes every December, to review, reflect,  and re emerge ready to face another year. When I was a little younger I wasn’t so aware of this pattern, but now that I’ve seen the cycle repeat a few more times I have built up a little bag of tricks to turn to so that December is more of a delight and less of a disaster.


 One of my favourite techniques has been to use the Best Year Yetplan as developed by JinnyDitzler .While looking for the link for the book I discovered that this programme has become very extensive, with coaches worldwide . However, I don’t have any experience of that and only ever used the book on my own. It usually takes me the best part of an afternoon to work through. Preferably with something nice to drink, that won’t fog the brain, elderflower cordial perhaps and some calm supportive music ( cello does it for me, this is not the moment for gypsy jazz). It can be quite a tough exercise to do, especially the initial stages where you are considering all the “failures” – however I invariably have found that my acheivements were much more numerous than I thought. And finally you are left with some clear plans for the coming year. You can also do the whole exercise free online here


The Artist’s Way   This suggestion is not specifically for  a new year, but if you are feeling at all “stuck” with finding a new direction then I really suggest working through the Artist’s Way. This is not a new book and many, many people all over the world have worked with it. Either use it on your own or find one or two people who would also like to do it and meet up once a week to discuss your experiences. I’ve found it very beneficial both ways, but meeting up weekly was more fun ( and there is the added support from working with others). By the way, don’t be put off if you don’t consider yourself  ” an Artist” – I think this book has a much wider relevance than that. The website link gives some information on the basic ideas so that you can see if it appeals to you.


Choose a Word of the Year” instead of making umpteen new year resolutions. I did this myself  for 2008 and found it a very powerful experience. I haven’t decided on my word for 2009 but will definitely do this again.


Simple Abundance   –    by Sarah Ban Breathnach. This is the book that kick started a lot of the other suggestions for me, though I only realised this with hindsight. At a rather low point I heard some journalists on Radio Scotland discussing “self help” books  and one woman ( I wish I knew who it was ) said that the only one she really enjoyed was Simple Abundance. With a short essay for each day of the year, this is a lovely book to start in January. Some days include exercises that can become daily habits that guide you and unearth quite unexpected ideas. My favourites were the gratitude journal , writing five things you are grateful for every night. And the collaging. Collaging has to be one of the best tools for creating movement. Of course, as with many books, if you were to implement the whole lot you’d have little time left over for anything else, so it is definitely a case of taking the aspects that appeal to you and disregarding the others.


Find someone/something to help in 2009.  It sometimes feels as though the whole world needs saving, now more so than ever. I’ve realised that one way to try and counteract that feeling of powerlessness is to focus my efforts on helping one person or cause. Still a drop in the ocean, but I can see that my efforts have some effect. I really admire the support that Jen Lemen  has given to her friend , and ultimately a whole extended family. Other ideas that appeal to me are Kiva , especially as the majority of the people are artisans. The whole idea  is summed up in the well known tale about starfish ( If you are not familiar with it, this is one site  (there are many) that has the story.


Use some of the time between Christmas and the New Year to review your surroundings. Get rid of clutter – “Everything that isn’t an absolute Yes is a No”. Find new homes for things you no longer need or want, give to charity shops or recycle/freecycle. Getting rid of clutter has a miraculous effect on energy levels.  A good resource for getting moving with this is “Clear your Clutter with Feng Shui” by Karen Kingston.


Dance – or learn to Dance.  Dance is taking over the world. Wherever you look, people are dancing. There are so many styles it would be difficult not to find something that appeals. Ceilidh dancing is having a real resurgence in Scotland. Salsa dancing is round every corner. Tango has spread far beyond the Argentinian borders. Admittedly you do have to go to Hungary for the best Czardas dances. Ballroom dancing is on primetime TV.  When you travel ,dance opens up all kinds of opportunities to meet locals, sometimes dance can even be the motivation to travel in the first place.  Maybe   number 7  should actually be number 1 –   because it is impossible not to have a spring in your step if you’re dancing !


Do you have a favourite method for reviewing the past year or preparing for the coming year ? I’d love to hear your suggestions.