City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh's Christmas


By edg - Posted on 08 October 2014

Big wheel on Princes Street
Event details
Time: 
Friday, November 18, 2016 - 10:00am - Saturday, January 7, 2017 - 11:59pm
Telephone (info): 
0131 529 3785

Christmas, or Xmas for non-believers, used to be a quiet period in Edinburgh. It's less so now, although (Edinburgh's Hogmanay aside) it's still not quite as mad as the hurlyburly of the Edinburgh Festival in August.

Edinburgh's Christmas is a package of Yuletide themed events running from late November, around St Andrew's Day, to early January as the Hogmanay celebrations come to an end. Together with Burns Night at the end of January, they make Edinburgh's Winter Festivals.

Edinburgh's Christmas was first launched at the turn of the millennium Hogmanay celebrations. Since 1999, it has expanded to include an ever-growing range of events, from Christmas Light Nights to Edinburgh pantomimes and Christmas shows

Deck the streets

You can't miss the brightly lit giant Christmas tree from Norway which is erected at the top of the Mound, and George Street and Princes Street are decked with fairie lights and yuletide decorations. In 2016, the West End of George Street includes the added attraction of a luminescent archway Street of Light, featuring 60,000 lights synchronised to live music performances.

The switch-on of the Christmas lights is an event in itself, watched by thousands of people at the end of November.

Other attractions include the Starflyer ride, the 33 metre high Big Wheel, Christmas shows in the pop-up Festival Square Theatre, and Santa Land, a focal point for festive themed rides and attractions for all the family. Set in East Prince Street Gardens, Santa Land has a Christmas Tree Maze, rollercoaster, Santa Train, reindeer merry-go-round, Santa’s Grotto, and various family attractions ranging in price from free to £8.

How many Santas make Christmas? Well, there's no lack of portly, white-bearded chaps and, for that matter, ladies hitting the ground for the Great Scottish Santa Run.

Pantos and Christmas Shows

Pantomime at the theatre is as traditional as mince pies around the tree at this time of year. Levity and fantasy are the order of the day, often with cross-dressing and updated, comical versions of traditional fairytales. Read EdinburghGuide.com's Edinburgh pantomime and Christmas reviews from 2012201120102009.

Winter Wonderland

St Andrew Square hosts a mini "elliptical" ice rink allowing you to skate around the Melville monument.
You can also get your skates on at Edinburgh's Winter Wonderland ice-rink (TBC) which is set up temporarily in East Princes Street Gardens alongside the Big Wheel, the ferris wheel that rises and falls beside the Scott Monument.

Christmas services

There's, of course, many Christmas carol services at Edinburgh churches, with the Christmas Eve carol services at St Giles on the Royal Mile among the most popular - the pews are packed.

Tom Chalk's nativity scene, a realistic interpretation of the biblical Christmas scene that the artist was commissioned to do in 2003, also is found in St Andrew Square. A carol concert will take place around the Nativity scene on Sunday 27 November at 3pm.

Christmas Markets: Smell the glühwein

Edinburgh's Christmas also features the European Market in East Princes Street Garden, and the Scottish Market next to the Street of Light on George Street from 26 November.

Carbon footprint

Calculations for previous years estimate that there are over 200,000 individual bulbs that light up Edinburgh’s Christmas, with over 10 kilometres of cabling.

Weather

To some extent Edinburgh's weather dictates the success of these christmas events. If we're lucky the city is crispy chilled and dry. But it can be dreich, windy and wet. Too warm and the ice rink melts.

Discount on tickets

Ticket prices vary for different attractions. Some are free, but for those that are paid, EH residents can claim a 20% reduction.