IT is the brightest night of the year and marks the beginning of the Capital’s Christmas extravaganza.
Thousands of people are expected to descend upon George Street on Sunday for the dazzling Light Night event, officially kicking off the festive season.
As well as illuminating Edinburgh’s streets with Christmas lights, the party will boast performances from choirs and musicians from across the Lothians as well as a fireworks show.
Stretching from St Andrew Square in the east to Festival Square in the west, organisers insist 2016 will see the “biggest, brightest and best programme” of Christmas events and entertainment to date.
Forth Radio’s Arlene Stuart will be hosting Sunday’s event, and will be joined on stage by deputy Lord Provost Steve Cardownie and double Olympic medallist Callum Skinner to switch on the lights at 5pm.
They will invite the crowds to join in the annual countdown, and once the lights of the Christmas tree on the Mound light up, hundreds of fireworks will be launched into the sky to begin Edinburgh’s Christmas celebrations – which run from Friday, November 18 to January, 7 2017.
Arlene said: “I am so excited to be working with Edinburgh’s Christmas again this year and I love to see the whole community getting involved in the celebrations.
“This event marks the start of the festive season for me and I’m sure for the thousands of people who turn up every year.
“It’s a fitting celebration for a wonderful city.”
Track cyclist Callum Skinner will be attending the event as this year’s guest of honour following his outstanding success at the Olympic games in Rio De Janeiro.
The 24-year-old, who was brought up in Bruntsfield and is a former pupil of James Gillespie’s High School, began his cycling career at Meadowbank stadium.
He said: “It’s been an incredible year for me winning gold and silver in the Olympics.
“I’m proud to be returning to start Edinburgh’s Christmas festivities in the city I grew up in and where I first discovered track cycling.
“Light Night is a terrific community celebration bringing everyone together in a free fun and spectacular event in the centre.”
Callum, who has been dubbed the next Chris Hoy, achieved an Olympic silver medal when he came second in the men’s individual sprint, and a gold medal in the men’s sprint team along with fellow athletes Philip Hindes and Jason Kenny.
In 2008, when he was crowned national youth champion, the City of Edinburgh Council crowned him the inaugural winner of the Chris Hoy Trophy for promising young cyclists.
In 2010, he represented Scotland at the Commonwealth Games and in 2014, he became the first man ever to win all four sprint events – team sprint, individual sprint, keirin and kilo – at the national championships.
Callum has nominated the Jabulani Project, which seeks to empower individuals and communities in South Africa through financial support, training and volunteer work supporting access to education and safe housing, as his chosen charity.
Callum added: “This is also a chance for me to highlight the great work that the Jabulani Project do for township children in South Africa. The charity is run by the popular former James Gillespie’s head teacher Alex Wallace. Many S6 students partake in an annual trip to support Gillespie’s partner schools in the Umlazi Township.”
This year’s event will incorporate the opening of the Street of Light – which has been housed on George Street this year – with performances by the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, Royal Scottish National Orchestra Junior Chorus, and Tigerstyle.
It is one of the community’s largest celebrations and last year organisers saw families travel from far afield to be part of it.
Choral Stimulation, a capella singing sensations from Glasgow, will be travelling through, and will be playing alongside finalists in BBC’s Naked Choir and Whitburn Band, 18 times Scotland’s champion brass band.
There will also be a special guest appearance from two of Norway’s finest musicians, singer Reidun Horvei and pianist Kristine Riber, who bring a selection of Norwegian folk songs.
Charlie Wood of Edinburgh’s Christmas, said: “Light Night is a wonderful moment when choirs from across the Edinburgh community take to the stage alongside Edinburgh Festival Chorus with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Junior Chorus and Tigerstyle. It’s a community celebration that sits at the heart of Edinburgh’s Christmas.
“We’re delighted that Edinburgh’s very own Olympic gold and silver medal winner Callum Skinner will be joining Edinburgh’s Deputy Lord Provost and Forth Radio favourite Arlene Stuart to light up the city and herald the opening of Edinburgh’s Christmas.”