For those not in the know, New Year’s Eve is a pretty big deal in Scotland. More commonly known as Hogmanay in this country, celebrations on the 31st December often dwarf even that of Christmas, as the latter was not officially deemed a public holiday in Scotland until 1958. So if you’re lucky enough to bid adieu to 2017 in Edinburgh, read on to get the most out of this spectacular holiday before 2018 is upon us for good.
30 December 2017, 7pm
Join in a time-honoured tradition and begin 2018 in a blaze of glory. Every year, the Royal Mile is transformed into a river of light as thousands of torch-bearers march down towards Holyrood Park, led by a troop of drums and pipes. This tradition is a throwback to Hogmanay’s Nordic roots, when the Vikings would celebrate the Winter Solstice with fire aplenty, as it was seen as a tool for purification and driving away evil spirits. This year the procession will culminate with the torches spelling out a one-word answer to the question “What makes you most proud to live in Scotland,” as chosen by young Scots to celebrate the beginning of Scotland’s Year of Young People in 2018.
31 December 2017, 7:30pm
If you’re looking to bid farewell to 2017 in a more intimate environment, then head to St. Giles Cathedral for the annual Candlelit Concert. The St. Giles Cathedral Choir and the St. Giles Camerata will be performing J. S. Bach’s ‘Lutheran Mass in F’ to commemorate the end of the Reformation’s 500th anniversary year, as well as George Frideric Handel’s ‘Organ Concerto Op. 4 No. 2 in B flat’, before closing with Handel’s famous ‘Dixit Dominus’. Such soaring choral music in this magnificent venue must be heard to be believed.
31 December 2017, 7pm
Ready for a wild night out? Princes Street will be transformed into the largest new year’s party in the world, with street performers, fire-eaters, acrobats, DJs, live music and so much more on show for the perfect send-off to the year. Headliners this year include The Human League, Treacherous Orchestra and Huey Morgan of Fun Lovin’ Criminals. As it’s an outdoor festival, be sure to dress warmly for the weather, but don’t worry – there will be plenty of mulled wine to take the edge off the chill.
Concert in the Gardens
31 December 2017, 9pm
The picturesque Princes Street Gardens will be transformed into a spectacular live music venue, with double BRIT award-winner Rag’n’Bone Man headlining the main stage this year and more acts to be announced soon. As an added bonus, you’ll also get an amazing view of Edinburgh Castle for the fireworks show as the clock strikes midnight. Tickets to the Concert in the Gardens includes access to the Street Party, so don’t miss out of the biggest party of the year!
Ceilidh Under the Castle
31 December 2017, 8:30pm
It wouldn’t be a proper party without a ceilidh, so why not whirl your way into the new year at the ultimate venue in Edinburgh? With a full traditional ceilidh band and local food and drink on offer, you’ll be ready to strip the willow beneath Edinburgh Castle until the wee early hours of the morning. Don’t worry if you don’t know the moves, as ceilidh dancers will be there to show you the steps until you’re reeling with the best of them. Plus, you’ll have the best seats in the house for the fireworks show at midnight.
Book a Venue
If you’re into a more private shindig, many places across Edinburgh throw their own new year parties, complete with music, dancing, food and drink. For instance, the ever-glamourous Hogmanay Gala Ball at The Balmoral is the black-tie event of the season, with a champagne and canapé reception, jazz performances by Le Swing and a four course banquet. Or venture through the hidden vaults beneath the city and into The Caves, with DJ sets and ceilidh-ing into the early morning. These parties come with a wide range of price tags, so you’ll be sure to find one that suits your style and your budget.
Want to start the new year off on the right track? Then take another page out of the Vikings’ book and practice the tradition of “first-footing.” In order to ensure good luck for the upcoming year, the first person through your threshold as soon as the clock strikes midnight should be a tall, dark male bearing symbolic gifts of whisky, coal, salt, shortbread and a black bun. Afterwards, friends and family (sex and hair colour no longer an issue) will visit each other’s houses and exchange gifts well into New Year’s Day.
Hit the Clubs
For those seriously down to party, check out the special Hogmanay line-ups at Edinburgh’s nightclubs. Why Not’s WONDERLAND NYE celebration promises to usher in the new year with hip-hop and RnB classics, complete with magicians and fire-jugglers for a truly magical evening. Or if house and techno are more your thing, Nightvision’s annual Hogmanay bash this year includes Groove Armada, Joris Voorn and more. Want to deny the passage of time altogether? Club Tropicana’s Hogmanay party is throwing it back to the 1980s, so dig out your best jazzercise outfit and dance to the greatest hits of the MTV era.
Build your own Bonfire
Even if raucous parties aren’t your jam, there’s no need to stay at home. Round up a few pals and celebrate Hogmanay the pagan way with a bonfire on Portobello beach. Just make sure to follow the rules laid out on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code by keeping your fire small and removing all traces once you’re done. Remember to bring a dram of scotch whisky to help brace against the cold sea wind as well as to toast the new year!
Watch the Fireworks
Wherever you are and however you decide to celebrate, don’t miss the magnificent fireworks show at Edinburgh Castle. This year, there will be a fireworks display earlier in the evening for families with small children in addition to the annual midnight celebrations. Whether you’re close to the action or watching from afar, remember to link arms with loved ones when the clock strikes twelve and sing Robbie Burns’ beloved Auld Lang Syne as the sky lights up above.