Samhuinn Halloween festival to be staged on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill

A huge Halloween celebration is to be staged on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill for the first time by the organisers of the Beltane Fire Festival.

Thousands of revellers are expected to gather on the historic landmark for a three-hour event which will mark the transition from summer to winter in the city with fire, dancing, drumming and dramatic performances.

Hundreds of costumed performers will depict a ritual struggle between the seasons, watched on by up to 5000 revellers, in the biggest ever show to mark Samhuinn.

First held in 1995 by the Beltane Fire Society and traditionally staged in the heart of Old Town, Samhuinn is Edinburgh’s biggest public Halloween event, but has not been ticketed before.

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The growing popularity of Samhuinn has led to the decision to relocate it to a new venue, where it is expected to attract a sell-out crowd in its first year.

Thousands of revellers are expected to gather on the historic landmark for Samhuinn Fire Festival. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Organisers say the event will be transformed from a procession into a fully “immersive experience” featuring more than 20 different groups of performers.

It has expanded onto Calton Hill the year after the annual summer celebration, which is always held on the last night in April, marked its 30th anniversary. That show, which like Samhuinn also draws heavily on centuries old Celtic traditions, is based around the journey of the May Queen and the Green Man around the hill.

The event, which is said to herald the arrival of the Celtic New Year, will chart the overthrowing of summer by winter, a dramatic stand-off between the kings of each season and their courts, and the intervention of a mysterious figure known as the Cailleach - a Celtic representation of a goddess - to decide their fate before ushering in the colder months.

Eric Macdonald, chair of the society, said: “The venue has given us a great opportunity to think outside the box for how we tell the Samhuinn story - including how we make it very different to our Beltane event - and our volunteers have been buzzing with loads of creative ideas already. We’ll have everything from giant puppets through to battles and bonfires. It’ll certainly be a unique Halloween night experience.

“Our festival has been growing in popularity for a number of years, and the limited number of tickets for this year’s event on Calton Hill means that we do expect to sell out.

“Our tip is for people to buy tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.”

An announcement from the Beltane Fire Society, which describes Samhuinn as a “counter-balance” to the event it stages on Calton Hill, stated: “Some big changes are in the air this year.

“For the first time ever Samhuinn marks the turn of the seasons at the top of Calton Hill. That means more space, more performers, more drummers, and more fire.

“This Samhuinn will be totally immersive as you wander between hundreds of otherworldly creatures battling it out all over Calton Hill.

“Get up close to this spectacular struggle between the seasons, brought to life by wild drumming, fire-dancing, acrobatics, and vibrant costumes.”

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