Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Holy Hogmanay!

I can happily report, I survived my first New Year celebration in Scotland.

Let me rephrase that.  I survived my first Hogmanay.

Hogmanay is the Scots' word for the last day of the year, and in Edinburgh, it's one of many internationally renowned festivals that attracts flocks of tourists to this nations capital. While it's roots are diverse and a bit mysterious (Norse? French? Gaelic?), today it's a mish-mash of traditional and modern events.  This year's Hogmanay started with a Viking-inspired torchlight procession on December 30th and ended with the city's first ever New Years Games on January 1st.  And in between?  Let's just say there were plenty of raucous and ridiculous events for visitors to enjoy.

While I didn't participate in every part of Hogmanay this year, I was sure to check out all the free events, and had a wonderful couple of days.

The Torchlight Procession

Perhaps my most awe-inspiring experience in the city so far, this parade of thousands of torch-bearers turned the dark city streets into a glowing river. With my brother and my new friend Kayla, I followed the procession up to Calton Hill for a 360 degree firework show and the traditional burning of a Viking ship. It was magical.





The New Years Games


This year's Hogmanay included Edinburgh's first ever New Years Games, a family event based loosely upon games played in ancient Highland villages.  Another free event, the games were mainly based in the city's Grassmarket, with other venues across the city. To play, we had to join one of two teams, the "Uppies" (Northerners) and the "Doonies" (Southerners).  Because we're from a Northern US State, my brother and I were Uppies.

 We then visited each game to try to win tokens for our team.  There were traditional carnival cames like ring tossing as well as games of skill like a Minotaur's Labyrinth- my absolute favorite. Sadly, the Doonies won the overall games, but Mark and I had an absolute ball playing!













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