I was always strictly a not-until-1st-December kind of girl. But this year, something seems to have come over me.
Something… almost magical.
I mean, sure, I kept to a 1st December deadline before posting anything particularly festive on the blog. You have no way of knowing I’ve been eating mince pies since mid-November; or that I went straight home after our festive spa day and loaded the sad-girl Christmas mixes onto my phone. I even bought a bloody advent calendar! (Gourmet marshmallows, fifteen quid plus extra for a wee thing to toast them on, haven’t regretted it a day.)
There are, I think, a few reasons why I have a particular spring in my step this year. My sister coming home (this week, in fact!). The new baby that’ll be entering my immediate circle in a few days, all being well. The fact that work, to the extent that it reflects UK politics and business in general, has been hectic and complicated, and I need the distraction. And maybe, just maybe, getting invited through to experience Edinburgh’s Christmas in mid-November (and with my wee best pal by my side).
Christmas markets may be only an adopted Scottish tradition, but I can’t help but feel a wee thrill when I notice those faux-wooden stalls and fairground rides begin to spring up in Glasgow city centre – even if I don’t really frequent them much. My mum and I recently started our own little Christmas tradition of meeting up to visit the Crib in George Square and share a milled wine to mark the start of our family Christmas (even if the first year I got her there under false pretences, so that my sister could surprise her in the mulled wine tent). Beyond that, though, the Glasgow Christmas markets tend to stress me out a little: they’re cramped, and busy, to the point that I’ve seen them sometimes limit entry on weekends.
While I’m sure Scotland’s tourist and political capital faces similar problems as the festive season really gets going, that’s certainly not the vibe I got on when we visited. Spread out across Princes Street Gardens with a little exclave on George Street (which we’ll get to), Edinburgh’s Christmas is bright, spacious and colourful, with lots of places to shop, eat, drink and explore – and a fair few cat-themed goodies on offer as well (hey, it was a Lis and Charlotte festive day out, what did you expect?).
The star attraction this year is Silent Light, a combination light show and silent disco located a short walk from the main market on George Street. Featuring 60,000 coloured light bulbs over several 20 metre high archways, the spectacular show pulses and sparkles in time to the music as you dance away under the synthetic stars.
I confess that I’ve never been a big fan of the silent disco concept: I’m a huge believer in the communal power of music, and I joked that the headphones must be so I wouldn’t roll my eyes at Charlotte for listening to too much ABBA. While there are a selection of different soundtracks on offer at Silent Light (Santa’s Sparkles, for little ones, Christmas Crackers, self-explanatory, and Disco Delights, for the party crowd), everybody’s listening to the same one per show – which, I suppose, is barely better for local businesses, since by the end of our 20 minute slot we were all belting out the songs anyway. Christmas Crackers, of course. It’s a good thing Whamageddon doesn’t kick off until 1st December, let me tell you.
Wrapping up warm is advised, of course – did I mention how much I love my Didriksons coat? Only a thousand times, if you’ve seen me since the CCW road trip, since I was almost certainly wearing it. It doesn’t matter how much you dance, or how many hot chocolates you’re drinking at the time – two degrees is two degrees.
But, as I’ve said before, that’s my favourite kind of weather: a bright, clear night, from the top of the Big Wheel, with Edinburgh a canopy of coloured lights down below. We also took a – very slow, very child-friendly – trip around the park on the Santa Train, which I was asking for by telling the PR I was scared of the majority of rides, even if weathered fairground chic is 100% my aesthetic.
A Christmas market isn’t a Christmas market without food of course, and it was in Edinburgh that I was introduced to the concept of raclette: a huge wheel of cheese melted over a piece of sourdough or, if you’re feeling super fancy, some tasty Great Glen charcuterie (something which featured on this very blog, back in the day!). If you’d rather keep it traditional with a burger, fish and chips or churros, that’s absolutely fine too – and I think I even spotted a smoked salmon stall from the corner of my eye, if that’s the sort of thing you’re into on a freezing winter night.
Bars dotted about the main market, on Castle Street and at Silent Light will keep you stocked up with a selection of hot and cold drinks – does anything say Christmas quite like a hot, boozy apple drink? But the real star of the show? A pop-up Mimi’s Bakehouse on Castle Street serving tasty traybakes, cupcakes, brownies, waffles and the most exciting-sounding selection of hot chocolates known to man: unicorn hot chocolate, anyone?
on Castle Street serving tasty traybakes, cupcakes, brownies, waffles and the most exciting-sounding selection of hot chocolates known to man: unicorn hot chocolate, anyone?
I’ve actually barely scratched the surface of what Edinburgh’s Christmas has to offer: there’s also the UK’s only elliptical-shaped ice risk in St Andrew Square, a 60m high Star Flyer with a 360 degree view of the city, Christmas-themed burlesque and cabaret from La Clique Noël… basically, way more than you could ever hope to tick off in four hours on a Monday afternoon. And if it doesn’t get you in the Christmas spirit – well, there’s no hope for you, my friend.
Edinburgh’s Christmas 2018 (and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay 2019!) is open until 5th January 2019. Silent Light is open until 1st January 2019.
We were guests of Edinburgh’s Christmas, but all views are my own and unbiased.