Edinburgh's Christmas

Submitted by edg on Mon, 30 Oct '17 9.27pm

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 Night to Edinburgh pantomimes and Christmas shows

Note: Edinburgh's Christmas 2019 dates and times to be confirmed - but likely to follow similar format to previous years (below).

Deck the streets

Thousands of people turn out at the end of November for the switch-on of the Christmas lights on Edinburgh Christmas Light Night.

If you can't make the festival opener, don't worry. You won'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 faerie lights and yuletide decorations.

In 2016, organisers Underbelly introduced a tunnel of faerie lights installation called Street of Light. This year it's back but with a silent street party called Silent Light, where participants can choose from three separate playlists and, listening on headphones, dance under the archways.

The Christmas Market returns to Princes Street Gardens while Santa will be plying his trade at his grotto on Castle Street.

Other attractions include the Starflyer ride, the 33 metre high Big Wheel that rises and falls beside the Scott Monument, Christmas shows in the pop-up Festival Square Spiegeltent, 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, 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 Edinburgh 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 current Edinburgh pantomime and Christmas reviews (and earlier round-ups here from 2012201120102009).

Winter Wonderland

St Andrew Square hosts a mini "elliptical" ice rink allowing you to skate around the Melville monument. (There is no Winter Wonderland ice-rink in East Princes Street Gardens).

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.

Christmas Market: Smell the glühwein

The Christmas Market returns to East Princes Street Garden with crafty goods for sale and seasonal fare to nosh on from 17 November to 5th January 2019.

Carbon footprint

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


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.

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