Edinburgh’s Christmas, the capital’s official Christmas programme, is spreading the drama and lights across the city centre this year. In what organisers Underbelly are calling the “the biggest event yet”, events will now take place on George Street and at Festival Square, as well as all the Christmasy goings-on at familiar locations of East Princes Street Garden and St Andrew Square.
The Christmas programme, running from Friday 18 November 2016 to Saturday 7 January 2017, is the fourth one organised by Underbelly for Edinburgh City Council.
Sing and dance under the lights
One of the highlights will be the 60,000 bulb Street of Light (pictured) spectacular which moves from the Royal Mile to West George Street. The lights on the corridor of sixteen arches, each 19 metres high, were synchronised to festive choral music in the inaugural event last year.
This year's Street of Light will open on George Street on Sunday 20th November as part of Edinburgh’s Light Night. This year people are being encouraged to sing and dance to a broad range of music from local choirs and bands, among them Edinburgh Festival Chorus, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Junior Chorus, contemporary fiddle music from the Highlands and Islands, Blazin’ Fiddles, and Scottish bhangra group Tigerstyle. There will be two musical performances each day until Christmas Eve.
The following Sunday, 27th November, a free, carol concert marking the start of Advent, takes place around the Nativity Scene in St Andrew Square.
Christmas in the West End
This year also sees a production by Underbelly of West End musical Five Guys Named Moe, in a pop-up theatre at Festival Square. Opening on 18 November, the toe tapping Clarke Peters’ show features memorable hits of Louis Jordan "Early In The Morning", "Choo Choo Ch’Boogie", and "Saturday Night Fish Fry".
Another festive, family magic show Christmas Morgan & West: A (sort of) Christmas Carol Magic Show! is at the Festival Square Theatre (1 Dec – 7 Jan). The show sees time travelling magicians Morgan & West tackle Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol in their own peculiar way.
As part of a new sponsorship deal, one of Edinburgh’s biggest employers, Standard Life, will gift 10,000 free tickets for the St Andrew Square elliptical ice rink to Edinburgh school children. Those applying for free tickets, available online from 11 October, will also be invited to make a donation to children’s mental health charity Place2Be.
Over 61,000 tickets over the Christmas period were issued for the Christmas ice rink last year. As sponsors of the track, Standard Life will also be gifting some tickets to Place2Be, its official charity partner until the end of 2017, and encouraging people to support their work.
East Princes Street Gardens
East Princes Street Gardens remains a centre point for families, from 19th November, with Santa’s Grotto, the Santa Train and the Christmas Tree Maze providing Christmas activities for kids aged 1 to 99. Rides include the Star flyer, traditional Carousel, and the Big Wheel.
The European Christmas Market returns to East Princes St Gardens, from 19 November, and the Scottish Market moves its stalls selling artisan goods and crafts to George Street from 26 November.
Among other events in the programme, 25 schools in Edinburgh are taking part in Winter Windows, where pupils design stained glass windows with the theme of architecture, reflecting 2016’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. The best window design from each school will be displayed in East Princes Street Gardens.
The free 24 Doors of Advent also returns allowing residents and visitors to peep behind usually closed doors in the city throughout advent.
Organised with the Festival of Architecture and Royal Incorporation of Architects Scotland (RIAS), 24 Doors of Advent includes the Royal Lyceum Theatre, the Chapel of St Albert the Great and BT Murrayfield Stadium.
Edinburgh’s Christmas runs from Friday 18 November 2016 to Saturday 7 January 2017.