Monthly Archives: December 2014

Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh

It’s Hogmanay time! Even though London was hailed the most popular city-break for New Year’s Eve, if you want a Scottish celebration – Edinburgh is the only place to be! Prepare for 3 days of music, fun, fire and lights – one of the biggest New Year parties in the world!

1280px-EdinburghNYEThe etymology of the word Hogmanay is obscure, although there are some hints on its origins. It may come from Norse, Goidelic (Insular Celtic) or French. In the Norse language, the haugmenn or hoghmenn mean the hill people – probably elves or trolls, and the celebrations were supposed to banish them back to the sea. The Goidelic version derives the word from Manx hog-un-naa or hob dy naa, which referred to Hallowe’en, and the French one – to the New Year gift or the celebration itself (aguillanneuf). Some other sources state that it might come from Gaelic og maidne (new morning), Flemish hoog min dag (day of great love) or the Anglo-Saxon haleg monath (holy month). Whatever the origins are, which we may never truly discover, Hogmanay in modern times is a massive celebration that gathers thousands of people and is an unforgettable experience!

The fun begins on December 30th with the Torchlight Procession, starting at George IV Bridge and heading to Waterloo Place and Calton Hill. Last year there were 35 000 participants! The procession ends with a stunning firework show that can be admired from every side of the city – a truly astonishing view (some even say that taking part in the Edinburgh Hogmanay Torchlight Procession is one of the 100 things you have to do before you die!).

Read about Scottish Whisky

During those days, you may take part in many cultural and artistic events. Famous musicians, often Scots themselves, are often invited to give concerts – during previous celebrations you could listen to, among others, The Proclaimers, Biffy Clyro and Calvin Harris. This year you may dance with Lilly Allen, The Twilight Sad and Young Fathers. Remember that the concerts are not free, so get tickets in advance while they’re still available! If you prefer more contemplative ambiance, there is a Christmas carol concert held in the candlelit St Gile’s Cathedral – this will surely be an unforgettable and beautiful event, especially considering the setting and atmosphere!

When the clock strikes midnight, you’d better know the words of Auld Lang Syne! This has become a tradition not only in Edinburgh or in Scotland, but across the whole of Britain. There is a custom that the people singing form circles and start to dance, so don’t be surprised to see this on the Edinburgh streets this year! At the end, everyone usually cross their hands at the breast, then approach the middle, reestablish the circle and turn around to stand with the face outside the circle while still holding the hands of their neighbors. Auld Lang Syne is quite old, believed to be written (or, at least, written down) by Robert Burns, and the average English speaker probably will need a few of the older Scots words translated to understand what they are singing about! The song is a popular selection for the celebrations marking the ends and new beginnings, and is also popular during funerals, graduations, and of course, the celebrations to commemorate Robert Burns.

Read more about Robert Burns

The Scottish traditions are strong among the people of Edinburgh– and the best proof is an annual outdoor New Year ceilidh! If you want to welcome 2015 with traditional Scottish music, dancing and delicious Scottish food, this is the best choice – and as this is a total sell-out each year, again take care to purchase your tickets as soon as possible if you want to participate! This year’s attractions feature Jimi Shandrix Experience, Hugh MacDiarmid’s Haircut and The Smashers.

If you feel a little hungover after over-indulging during the festive period, the best remedy might be the Loony Dook! Dook is a Scottish word meaning to dip or bathe, and this fun event involves taking the plunge into the cold waters of the Firth of Forth. The Loony Dook took place for the first time just 29 years ago, yet it has grown into one of the most well-known and popular New Year celebrations in Scotland. The participants often jump into the cold waters while wearing funny costumes, or raise money for charity via sponsorship, so the Dook attracts many onlookers – if you’re not keen on the idea of taking the plunge yourself, watching others do so might also be fun (but will certainly be less cool, literally and figuratively).

If you don’t find the Loony Dook appealing, there is another great and free event for the New Year – Scot:Lands. This is a journey through Edinburgh’s Old Town, where you’ll find specially prepared concerts, activities and hidden attractions! Taking part is absolutely free, but due to the high number of attendants last year, registration is required so sign up quickly!

Edinburgh has a lot to offer during these special days – no matter if you want to have fun on the streets with loud music or you prefer more traditional and calm events. Whatever your preference, the city as a lot to offer – and a Hogmanay City Break might be your best New Year experience ever!

Scottish Gifts Inspirations Under The Christmas Tree

As December approaches, your thoughts surely turn to the every year’s problem – what to give to your loved ones? Even though you might know your best people well, the perfect gift is always a problem – so we’ve decided to help you and come up with some Scottish Christmas Gifts inspirations!

For a spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend

jewelleryChoosing a keepsake for your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend shouldn’t be an ordeal, but overthinking may be catastrophic. If you’re looking for something for your lass, giving her tea-towels or a tartan fridge magnet playing Scotland the Brave might cause a Christmas break-up (but could be considered a nice thoughtful gift for an elderly aunt you’ve not seen for 20 years).

The classic choice is of course jewelry. There is a broad selection of items to choose from, but if your special lass is Scottish, you should consider something with a Celtic design. Celtic knots are always in fashion! We especially recommend the Scottish-made items, from brands such as Sheila Fleet, Kit Heath, or Ortak, as they guarantee high quality materials and a quirky blend of traditional and modern design, while you can support Scottish-based brands. And your girlfriend will surely be delighted too :) A nice trinket box will be an excellent addition and makes a great replacement for wrapping paper. If your girl prefers more practical gifts, we suggest something made of cashmere. Sweaters, tops and especially shawls – soft and silky, they will keep her warm even during the coldest winter days.

If you know exact measurements, you may also think about ordering a made-to-measure tartan skirt or dress – this will certainly be an unforgettable present proving you know her very well 😉

When you seek a gift for man, the easiest thing is to see if he’s into Scottish history. If he’s a proud member of a Scottish clan, a clan-crested item might put a smile on his face. A dirk or sgian dubh – the traditional weapons – will be nice accessories to wear with his kilt outfit. They’re usually beautifully engraved and finished, so when not hidden in his hose or a scabbard, they will be an original yet charming home decoration element.

If your man owns a Prince Charlie outfit, he’ll surely be bowled over by the gift of a new fly plaid! This element of a Highland Dress always brings attention, and looks fabulous if worn correctly. Remember that it’s suitable only for the most formal occasions.

If your man is proud of his heritage but not really keen on tartans and flashes, there are plenty of other options. A quaich (traditional Scottish drinking bowl) or simply a book on his clan’s history, will certainly make him happy too!

tankardFor a friend

If you think that picking a present for your BFF is easy then you’re wrong! And not because you don’t know what to buy – the selection is so broad that it’s hard to choose just one or even several things. If your friend won’t just tell you straight ahead what he or she wants under the Christmas tree – don’t worry, we’ve got a few ideas. The best gifts are personal – so maybe you should think of printing and framing some photos instead of putting them on Facebook! There is a broad choice of Celtic-themed photo frames, which you can combine with a funny mug (or tankard!) and perhaps a small trinket you know a friend would like and use – a keyring, Celtic compact mirror or a badge.

For family

Giving your loved ones wonderful gifts is always a pleasure, but it’s sometimes preceded by a torturous process of choosing. You may know your closest kin well, but what about this aunt we’ve mentioned before? You should consider something neutral, yet not too impersonal. Gloves, a hat or cap is always a classic (we recommend Lyle and Scott – again, support Scottish brands!), but you can instead choose a patterned pashminas or a traditional tammy hat. When you want to emphasise your heritage, a glass of malt whiskey will always be helpful. A bottle of the Water of Life with some tumblers or a nice engraved flask will please any true Scot. If there are music lovers in your family, a traditional Celtic CD album might be also a good option. If you’re looking just for a small keepsake – we recommend cufflinks, kilt pins or a brooch.

For children

baby kiltWhen you’re looking for a gift for the smallest Scots, you might get a little overwhelmed by the choice of items. If you want to pass on the heritage from the earliest years, there are baby kilt outfits! Don’t worry, as they are designed with comfort first and foremost in mind. Every little Scot will look absolutely adorable in a miniature kilt, hose and booties! If you’re looking for something for slightly older children, there are soft tartan teddy bears, but our advice is to get more creative. There are kilt outfits for older boys too of course, but a boy will certainly be the most interested in his own sgian dubh (already blunted, so don’t worry that someone will get hurt). If it comes to girls, a billie kilt skirt or a tartan cape should satisfy every little princess :)

…and if you left buying the presents for the last moment…

you may always purchase a gift certificate! The present surely will be perfect :)