Hogmanay In Edinburgh

Hogmanay in Edinburgh

Photograph by Jenni Douglas

Hogmanay in Edinburgh



Edinburgh is an incredibly dramatic city. Built across a ravine gouged millennia ago by a migrating glacier, one side sitting atop an extinct volcano, the other a sweep of majestic Georgian townhouses, it is also sodding freezing in winter.

Despite this, thousands of unsuspecting English, American and Antipodean tourists flock to the city on 31 December each year believing that the ‘atmosphere’ will keep them warm. Actually, it is the ‘atmosphere’ that makes you cold.

The reason for this is quite complicated, but please stay with us on this. The reason is that Edinburgh is in Scotland. Scotland is a cold place, and winter is the coldest part of the year. Some people would go as far as to say Scotland ‘has form’ for being on the cooler side and winter is fast gaining a reputation for being chilly. These facts are not secrets, people discuss them openly in pubs and during tennis games with casual acquantances. So you don’t have to be a genius to work out that wearing shorts and flip-flops as the clock strikes midnight on 31 December is just going to land you in the nearest accident and emergency unit with the distinct chance of losing a toe – but then you’ve got nine more and what are they really there for anyway? You can’t pick stuff up with them.

Anyway, the altogether lack of ambient warmth is the reason all the genuine residents of Edinburgh bugger off for the holidays, wistfully shaking their heads at the scores of misled foreigners bouncing out of the trains at Waverley station, ready for their grins to be frozen off their ruddy-cheeked faces while tiny little icicles form on their eyelashes. Little do they know that because they bought the festival-style white wristband for £49.99 and not the gold wristband for £69.99 or the platinum wristband for £89.99 and one blond-haired child, they will actually be stuck in a Tesco car park closer to Berlin than to Edinburgh’s picturesque Royal Mile.

For 31 December sees Edinburgh turned into a giant internment camp which the council actually charges you to enter and battery hens think is cramped. Barricades and armed police who have been drinking prevent any free-born Briton who has not paid the requisite money from walking along the streets his taxes pay to build, maintain and sweep. If the message still hasn’t got through, the underfed Alsatians straining at their handlers’ slipping grip will push the point home.

A quite staggering – and we mean staggering – number of the ‘revellers’ have also forgotten one minor point. Yes, the celebrations go on until after midnight, but not for ever. Like happiness and your girlfriend’s love, they come to an end much sooner than you think and you will need somewhere to sleep at some point. For many who have forgotten to call the Holiday Inn seven years in advance, this means only bed you will be spending the night in will also have flowers growing out of it. Luckily, there is an ancient Scottish tradition of welcoming the ‘first foot’ – the first visitor of the new year. So the houseowner will cheerily wake you at 11am with a hot breakfast and a mug of cocoa. They most certainly won’t wake you angrily at 6am with a kick to the nuts and throw stones at you as you limp down the street crying like a child. For that would be unwelcoming and therefore contrary to all the utterly mythical rules of Scottish hospitality. (‘Don’t worry Crispin, I speak a little Scottish and I’m sure they mean us no harm. Ow! Christ! Please, not the face!’)