IT’S the most wonderful time of the year – and this year it’s promising to be bigger and better than ever.
Edinburgh’s Christmas officially kicks off this weekend, with a host of big events set to light up the city in the dark winter months.
Last year, a staggering 866,930 visitors soaked up the festive atmosphere, with 750 staff working around the clock.
But yesterday organisers promised the “biggest event yet” as they unveiled a raft of attractions.
From Friday, the St Andrew Square Ice Rink – the only outdoor ice rink in Scotland’s central belt – will draw in tens of thousands of skaters from 10am to 10pm.
In 2015, 61,000 tickets were issued to merrymakers – and this year new sponsors Standard Life are dishing out 10,000 free sessions to local schoolchildren.
Meanwhile, West End and Broadway smash-hit Five Guys Named Moe will play at the brand new Festival Square Theatre until January 7, showcasing the toe-tapping tunes of jazz legend Louis Jordan.
The European Christmas Market, Big Wheel, Star Flyer and Santa Land will all be up and running from Saturday, boasting more than 100 stalls laden with tasty snacks, warming drinks and handmade gifts.
And around 20,000 people are expected to gather at the west end of George Street on Sunday as the Capital’s spectacular festive lights are officially switched on by Olympic gold and silver medal winner Callum Skinner and Forth One DJ Arlene Stuart.
This year’s Street of Light display along west George Street will see 24 arches covered in a total of 60,000 bulbs, with music from local choirs and bands including the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, Royal Scottish National Orchestra Junior Chorus and Blazin’ Fiddles. More than 350,000 people are expected to snap up free tickets during its 35-day run.
Charlie Wood of Edinburgh’s Christmas said: “The temperature has dropped and with Christmas decorations appearing in shops and houses across Edinburgh, it’s time to light up the city and celebrate this special time of year.
“This is the fourth year that Underbelly has produced Edinburgh’s Christmas on behalf of Edinburgh Council and during that time the event and the positive impact it has socially on the residents of Edinburgh and economically for the businesses in the city and the city itself have grown substantially.
“In 2016 we are looking forward to putting on the biggest event yet, stretching from St Andrew Square to the West End, from the hit musical Five Guys Named Moe in a fantastic new production in Festival Square Theatre, to a partnership with Standard Life offering 10,000 free ice skating tickets to schoolchildren, from Street of Light transforming George Street to the local choirs of Edinburgh on Light Night.
“Edinburgh in winter is truly world class and proves yet again, Edinburgh’s Christmas is the place to be.”