Edinburgh preps for Christmas

For weeks there have been signs that Christmas was coming to Edinburgh. Stores and streets have added festive lights, the air has been getting colder and most of Princes Street Gardens have been taken up by the now opened Christmas market. But there were two events recently that I happened on that properly marked the beginning of Christmas countdown.

The first was a few weeks ago when the Christmas lights were officially turned on. There was a do on George Street in the New Town, at one end of which is the blue dome you can see in the photo gallery above. I turned up early, too early in fact as it was still too light out. There were several stages with different performances, nicely lit buildings framing the street, and a few speeches but I managed to miss the grand finale as the crowd just got too dense and I couldn’t get anywhere near the spot with the main action. As I was waiting for my bus home nearby, I could just see fireworks going up partly behind a building. I had read online that there would be fireworks and promptly forgotten it, so there I was, missing the fireworks.┬áTypical.

The city is also hosting a live advent calendar with real doors you can open. That is, many of the city’s buildings,┬ásome of which are not normally open to public, each have an open door day on one day in December. I caught the first one, a visit to John Sinclair house which houses the Historic Environment Scotland collections. I spent a great afternoon there, browsing the photos and drawings they had on display and finding fascinating books about Edinburgh on their shelves. Yes, it was research for the books I’m writing and no, I’m not going to tell you specifics.

As I was heading home, I chanced on Waterloo Place just at the right time. The National Archives building (now housing a newly named National Records Archive) has a Giant Advent Calendar projected onto its facade and I was just in time to see the opening of door #1. And yes, that’s the official name of it. The facade has each of the doors (windows) highlighted in orange when doors are closed, and when each opens, well! The light show that followed was fun and colorful. I think word hasn’t yet spread as there were only a few people there on the first night, so I got a good spot on the edge of the street opposite the building. The first door opened at 5:30, with people projected onto the facade, miming pulling down or swiping with their arms, and the color changes followed.

About five minutes into the show, the countdown began. There were moving gears, a clock face and a tick-tock noise as the facade flashed through several years until it finally settled on year 1965. The photos of that year in Edinburgh projected onto the facade are from the National Archives, I understand. They will open a door per day until Christmas, and I had planned on going by and watching at least most of them, but I read online that the time of day varies over the next weeks. It’s cold, people! We can’t just hang about, “at varying times from 5.30pm to 10pm each day”, in the hopes of catching a door opening. They really should have kept the time the same each day in my opinion. Oh well, I hope I catch it a few more times over the next weeks.

There’s more to Christmas in Edinburgh, of course, and more blog posts to come over the coming weeks. I’m not actually big on Christmas, but I love the lights, the effort the city has made, and I’m sure I will also love the Edinburgh Christmas market which I have only glimpsed so far, passing by. It is one of the things I loved when I lived in Germany, and the Christmas market in Edinburgh promises to be quite similar. Mulled wine, stalls selling all kinds of stuff, and hyperactive children, anyone?


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