A guide to the programme highlights of Edinburgh's Christmas and Hogmanay 2013
Limbo, Pet Shop Boys and Chvrches set to entertain Edinburgh over the festive period
Edinburgh's winter celebrations are set to be bigger than ever this year, with a new collaboration between event producers Unique Events and Underbelly (usually only seen around these parts at Fringe time) taking the reins of both the Edinburgh's Christmas and Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations. The new programme features all the things we loved about the capital's festive atmosphere in the past, along with some exciting new additions.
Firm favourites like the Princes Street Gardens ice rink and the traditional Christmas Market are still around, with some significant improvements. The ice rink has now been moved up to the East Princes Street Gardens terrace, while the Christmas Market will be bolstered by two markets at St Andrew's Square, catering specifically to both children (with top quality toys and crafty workshops on offer) and Scottish food lovers (with tasty treats from a variety of producers). The giant ferris wheel that traditionally stood beside the Scott Monument has been upgraded, with new weather-proof pods (similar to those on the London Eye) in the place of those breezy old carriages. It's also been been repositioned to give passengers a much better view of the Castle, the Old and New Towns and even (on a fine day) Fife. If your younger ones don't have a head for heights, they can always happily lose themselves Christmas Tree Maze or visit Santa's Grotto (followed by a ride on the Santa Train, naturally).
The events programme on offer in 2013 also presents a significant step up from previous years. Cabaret show Limbo features a mix of 'heart-stopping illusions, mind-bending manoeuvres, breathtaking dance moves and thrilling live music [written by American electric-acoustic composer Sxip Shirey] from a coterie of highly skilled international performers'. The event takes place in the colourful confines of the Spiegeltent, and there are also dining options available, making it an ideal venue for your Christmas work night out. If you're in need of further entertainment once the show's done, returning Fringe favourite Hot Dub Time Machine will be on hand to whisk party-goers through decades of danceable tunes until the wee hours.
For kiddies, Nonsense Room Productions' Little Red Riding Hood promises 'audience participation, catchy songs and a little sprinkling of Christmas magic', while the award-winning of Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs makes for 'a good, colourful hour' of entertainment (at least, that's what we said when the show was staged during the Fringe).
This year sees the milestone 21st anniversary of Edinburgh's Hogmanay and the three-day programme promises another mix of spectacular free and ticketed outdoor events along with one of the world's most famous New Year parties. Festivities kick into gear in the days leading up to New Year's Eve, with the spectacular Torchlight Procession taking place on Monday 30 December from the new start location of George IV Bridge. Last year's event attracted over 35,000 participants, so pre-book your torches now if you want to carry a torch for charity. There are more firelight delights on offer at the classical Candlelit Concert, taking place in St Giles' Cathedral on New Year's Eve, a choral celebration held in the city's stunning cathedral.
Things are much more rowdier around on Princes Street on Tuesday 31 December, where 80,000 revellers will party into 2014 at the main ticketed events. UK electro-pop legends Pet Shop Boys are set to headline the Concert in the Gardens beneath Edinburgh Castle, while an all Scottish line-up at the main Street Party event welcomes Django Django, Chvrches and King Creosote to entertain the masses in the run-up to midnight. Not content with just the spectacular Midnight Fireworks in Edinburgh, there will be displays counting down to midnight on the hour from 9pm.
But the party doesn't finish there… a full day of free events on New Year's Day presents some of Scotland's finest performers and musicians in mystery venues throughout the Old Town, plus the Loony Dook in South Queensferry provides the perfect hangover cure with a dip in the freezing waters of the Firth of Forth.