For many, the world's greatest New Year celebrations take place in Edinburgh and they certainly would not want to be anywhere except when the clock strikes midnight on 31st December. Four continuous days of exuberant celebrations, during which the city is alive with magical and amazing days and nights of entertainment, start on December 29th and climax on New Year's Day.
Annually, over 100,000 revelers descend on Edinburgh to welcome in the New Year known to the Scots as Hogmanay. Although the origins of that phrase remain uncertain there are many different theories. According to what you believe Hogmanay has its origins in French, Anglo-Saxon, Flemish, Gaelic, Scandinavian, or even Viking culture!
A torch lit procession on the evening of December 29th kicks-off the extended celebrations. This is a stunning visual family event which involves hundreds of characters in fancy dress carrying torches trailing behind a group dressed as Vikings, who in turn are dragging a traditional Long Ship up Edinburgh's Carlton Hill. A fantastic firework display signals that the procession has reached its destination, and then the torches are thrown into the Ship providing an incredible climax as it burns bright; visible from many parts of the city.
On the night before Hogmanay, the city holds a monster Ceilidh which provides street theater, music and dance for all to enjoy. Then, on New Year's Eve when the city is literally buzzing with anticipation as tens of thousands of partygoers fill the streets. If this description of the New Year celebrations is whetting your appetite and you are now considering going to the next Hogmanay, it is worth bearing in mind that as many revellers come from outside Edinburgh getting a hotel room can be a challenge. It is best to book well in advance as many of the larger independent hotels and large chains such as Thistle hotels offer reasonably priced Hogmanay packages.
With so many people wanting to be part of this exciting spectacle only those holding passages, which can be bought in advance, are allowed into the central party area. There is a huge choice of pubs, restaurants, and outside entertainment centered on Princess Street. Three stages all host live music, two giant screens broadcast the revelry, and there is a Ceilidh in the gardens. At midnight a magnificent fire work display erupts over the seven hills signifying the start of the New Year and everyone joins hands to sing "Auld Lang Syne".
After the official welcome to the New Year the party lasts until the early hours but the festivities certainly do not stop there. On New Year's Day witness the thousands of brave souls who take a dip in the freezing cold Forth River, in a ritual known as the Loony Dook. It's all for charity as is the reason why many others will be running the Royal Mile.
For the kids there is a duathlon which involves a 600 meter run, two miles cycling, and then a further 600 meter run. Adults can take part in a grueling triathlon, if they really feel the urge! Alternately, take it easy after the night's endeavors and treat yourself to Edinburgh's Dogmanay; husky dogs racing through Holyrood Park.