Edinburgh’s Christmas begins with Light Night extravaganza

Edinburgh's Christmas welcomed over 370,000 people over the weekend. Picture: Contributed
Edinburgh's Christmas welcomed over 370,000 people over the weekend. Picture: Contributed
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Forget the Christmas coffee cup or the first mince pie – the switch on of the High Street lights marks the true beginning of the festive season.

Visitors and residents came together to celebrate the start of Edinburgh’s Christmas season.

Shrek the Musical stars Stefan Harri and Call the Midwife actress Laura Main. Picture: Contributed

Shrek the Musical stars Stefan Harri and Call the Midwife actress Laura Main. Picture: Contributed

The festivities, which will last for six weeks, went into full swing as a 20,000-strong crowd met in the city centre for an afternoon of free music, dance and celebrations.

Alongside the opening of the annual markets in Princes Street Gardens, the event marked a weekend where families across the city began to prepare for the big day.

Tonight’s event, dubbed Light Night, is the latest in a line of attractions designed to foster community spirit on George Street and the surrounding areas.

Throughout the afternoon, choirs and dance groups came from across Scotland and braved the freezing winter weather to perform.

A 20,000-strong crowd gathered to watch the switching on of the Christmas lights. Picture: Contributed

A 20,000-strong crowd gathered to watch the switching on of the Christmas lights. Picture: Contributed

Hosting proceedings was Forth One’s Arlene Stuart.

Over four stages and two hours, crowds were treated to a host of performances before the street was lit up in the main event.

The audience was also treated to a sneak peak of Shrek the Musical, which is due to arrive at the Edinburgh Playhouse next month.

Actress Laura Main, who plays Fiona, was given the honour of switching on the lights this year alongside her Shrek co-star Stefan Harri.

They did so on the Yellow Stage in front of the terrifying new Tower Drop attraction, which takes pride of place on George Street and can be seen from miles away.

Performers of all ages did well to continue their routines as they were often interrupted by shouts of terror from the jaw-dropping ride.

In addition to the Tower Drop, visitors can this year experience temperatures of -10C in a new Ice Adventure.

The Ice Dome is filled with sculptures of everything from mythical creatures to historical figures and will take visitors on a journey through Scotland’s history.

Adding to the community spirit was the Harmony Choir, who took some time on stage to explain the intentions behind their group. Harmony are advocates for the benefits of mental health, believing that singing, particularly as part of a group or choir, to help people all feel better.

While some of the Light Night crowd had travelled from just down the road, others came from much further afield to witness Edinburgh’s legendary festivities for the first time.

Hia Selte and Asmund Kamphaug, both 23, travelled from Norway for the occasion.

“We are from Norway so we are just visiting and it is so beautiful,” Mr Selte said.

“It is much bigger here than in Norway. It is much more of a festival with lots of decorations and it is very nice because the people are so warm and friendly. We do have markets in Norway, but only in the biggest cities.”

The traditional Christmas Tree on the Mound, a gift to the City of Edinburgh Council from Hordaland County Council in Norway, was lit as part of the Light Night celebrations.

The event marked a turn in the year – a point where people can begin to embrace Christmas rather than denying it is on the horizon.

As well as those looking to enjoy the atmosphere, much of the crowd was made up of proud parents and friends.

“I think it helps get you in the Christmas spirit” said 29-year-old Leanne. “Once the lights come on you can start to prepare. We are staying to see it all.”