Hogmanay is the Scottish word for the last day of the year. During the last few days of December, different regions in Scotland celebrate this holiday in various ways. I happened to be in Edinburgh when they were celebrating, and the town was insane with all the revelers getting ready. Edinburgh is home to one of the largest Hogmanay festivals with tens of thousands of people coming each year to celebrate.
There are several days of celebrations including parties and live music, but I was there for the Torchlight Procession. Back in the day people used to light torches and go around the town celebrating the coming of the new year. Today people pour out onto the streets of Old Town to walk around and celebrate the end of the year. So many people come that it broke the World Record in 1996 with 400,00 people coming out to celebrate. It’s now capped at 100,000 people due to safety reasons.
I picked up my torch and wristband (required to be in the parade) early in the afternoon. It took me about an hour waiting in line, so if you’re coming to this and are in town earlier, get it on a different day. After exploring the town for a bit, I had a quick dinner and went to get in line for the parade.
There are tens of thousands of people, so it takes you quite awhile to start moving. This year a reported 80,000 people came out, so trying to light each one of those torches can take hours. After about two hours of waiting and slowly moving through the line, my torch was lit and I was off. I loved seeing the city of Edinburgh lit up by thousands of torches. The path is closed off to those who didn’t buy tickets, and hundreds were on the streets cheering us on. I walked through the windy streets for about half an hour before coming to the end.
Besides a few close calls with people getting their torches too close to my hair, I was surprised at how safe the event was. I think quite a few people had been drinking too before the celebrations, yet I didn’t see anyone set on fire (luckily). It was a fun way to see the city, and at the very end, you’re greeted by fireworks. I love visiting new cities, but especially enjoy it when I can partake in a tradition special to them. I’d love to go back next time to participate in all four days of activities.
Have you participated in another country’s celebrations before?
Looking for more travel tips?
Sign up for my weekly newsletter to get travel tips, plus enter to win travel contests!