2008 New Year's Special Edition

Although it has been only a few weeks since my last newsletter I thought a New Year deserved a new newsletter. So sit back, grab a wee dram of whiskey and let me share with you how I spent the few days leading up to Hogmanay (New Years Eve). For a number of years I have wanted to join the street festivities of New Year celebrations in Edinburgh. This year my friend Alex from Sydney and her parents have been touring Europe and given their Scottish heritage visited the highlands of the mother country. We met up in Edinburgh and were joined by a mutual friend Liz from Melbourne and her family. And so the festivities began...

 Yes, that is Haggis Even the Scottish need help with thier English   

The three-day Hogmanay festival started with the Torch Parade. The event is a celebration of Scotland’s pagan past. Instead of the mob running down and burning a poor hapless soul, a wooden stag paid the ultimate sacrifice. It was amazing how a crowd with lethal weapons can be so well behaved. I was hoping that as we walked past Marks and Spencer we could find out what a real fire sale is like. Alternatively try a riot incited flamed burger from a fast food outlet. Below are some pictures of the parade.

No Helen's were actually hurt in the making of this web site

It was a great experience  walking through town with a few thousand other pyromaniacs!

The following evening was a family event - “The night afore monster Ceilidh” or street parade. Apart from the usual bag pipes there were a number of pretty good bands playing, an eclectic mix of music, street theatre, storytelling and giant (but friendly!) monsters from throughout Europe. From out of nowhere they would descend on a hapless soul and devour them. For me the highlight was the huge street puppets some of whom are below. The night ended with a group of 4 lads fusing highland and break dancing accompanied by a bagpipe and beat boxer - really impressive stuff!

The pinnacle of the events is the Princess St Party and New Years Eve fireworks with Edinburgh Castle as the backdrop. Our night started with a wonderful dinner at the bar Bad Ass. The meals can only be described as HUGE, in fact most of the food ended up back in the kitchen. I am however proud to say that I have tasted haggis and survived…

We then weaved our way through the crowd to find our vantage point. In the past over 300,000 crammed Princess Street to watch the fireworks. Given the UK’s obsession with health and safety (more on that later) they now sell tickets for the event limiting the crowd to a mere 100,000. We were also lucky with the weather considering that last year’s event was canceled due to gale force winds. Now, at all good street events you can buy beverages of numerous varieties. At hogmanay you can buy beer poured into a milk shake cup, wine and bees in plastic bottles and bottles of water with deadly serrated edges… yes that its right. When buying two bottles of water I was told that I could not take the bottles with their lids otherwise “they might close us down”. Just remember that 'US' was over 100,000 people and heap of fireworks. The irony is that we were not searched when we walked in nor were those little knives in the socks of men wearing skirts confiscated…I ask you!

Anyway, the night went off with a spectacular bang. For some there was a little more entertainment including street twister. Below is a movie that a fellow reveler took of the festivities..

On New Year’s Day some of the more sober members of the community gathered at the top of the Royal Mile for a charity run to the bottom. All manner of shapes and sizes and breeds ran, slipped and tripped their way to the bottom – all for a good cause. Everyone then moves on to watch the Dogmanay. Alaskan Malamute, Samoyed and Siberian Huskies team up to compete in a type of sled race. As the brochure says, "these dogs are elite athletes as well as beloved pets and they live to run". All I can say is that they are sooo cute!

And there you have it. I hope that your start to 2008 was as enjoyable and as memorable as mine. Wishing everyone all the best for the year ahead...and by the way, at what point in the month can you stop saying happy new year to people in the office that you see for the first time in January??

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