IT’S Santa’s busiest time of the year, as he gears up for Christmas Eve, packs his sleigh and prepares to deliver sackloads of presents to hundreds of millions of excited children across the globe.
But next month Saint Nick is taking time out from his hectic schedule to pay a visit to Edinburgh, with the city’s first ever Santa Parade set to take place through Stockbridge on Saturday, December 5.
Thousands of people are expected to line the streets as up to eight reindeer from the Cairngorms pull Santa’s sleigh from Kerr Street – opposite the Sunday market space – to Inverleith Park, where a Christmas Charity Festival will then be opened by a mystery VIP.
The George Watson’s School Pipe Band will lead the colourful troupe along Raeburn Place and Portpower Place before arriving at the park, accompanied by a team of elves made up of local schoolchildren.
Organisers promise the festive spectacle will be “fun for all the family” – and insist their Santa is “the best in Scotland”.
Co-founder Terry Crossley said: “This is a great event for the whole family, from grandparents to newborns, with a special opportunity for young children to enjoy the magic of Christmas – including meeting real reindeer.”
The Christmas Charity Festival at Inverleith Park will run over Saturday and Sunday and boast a range of marquees and stalls laden with tasty treats, as well as crafts and live music.
Iced gingerloaf, raspberry bakewell and stollen muffins can all be washed down with a selection of teas, cinnamon hot chocolate or spiced apple punch.
Elsewhere, Santa’s Grotto will offer wee ones the chance to meet Father Christmas himself, whisper their wishes, receive a gift and have their photo taken – all for £5.
And on Sunday, revellers can burn off those extra calories by taking part in a series of charity walks, runs and toddles, with the Edinburgh Christmas Walk kicking off at 11am.
The first Christmas Walk, which was sponsored by the Evening News, took place 47 years ago – and this year the organisers are offering free entry to all veterans of the 1968 event.
10k and 5k runs will take place earlier in the morning, followed later by the Golden Tinsel Mile Walk, offering a gentler route of one, two or three miles to cater for the elderly and those with limited mobility.
In the afternoon, meanwhile, a second Santa Parade will get under way – and this time residents are encouraged to get involved.
Mr Crossley said: “Santa will arrive in Inverleith Park riding in his magnificent sleigh, being pulled by his favourite reindeer with the George Watson’s School Pipe Band leading the parade.
“Mums, dads, grans and grandads are all welcome to join in – and every toddler taking part will receive a medal, certificate and a goody bag.”
He added: “Anybody can walk, run, stroll or toddle for any charity they wish – or they can do it for fun. It’s a great family weekend and open to all.”
Councillor Richard Lewis, the Capital’s festivals and events champion, said: “The Christmas Charity Festival is really making its mark on the festive calendar, and I look forward to seeing its newest addition, the Santa Parade, help raise money for a range of worthwhile charities.”