City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh's Christmas

By edg - Posted on 12 November 2012

Big wheel on Princes Street
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Christmas, or Xmas for non-believers, used to be a quiet period in Edinburgh. It's less so now, although (Edinburgh's Hogmanay aside) it's still not quite as mad as the hurlyburly of the Edinburgh Festival in August.

Edinburgh's Christmas is a package of Yuletide themed events running from late November, around St Andrew's Day, to early January as the Hogmanay celebrations wind up. Together with Burns Night at the end of January, they make Edinburgh's Winter Festivals. 

Edinburgh's Christmas was first launched in 1999 to compliment the hugely popular millennium Hogmanay celebrations. It encompasses an ever-growing range of events from christmas light nights to Edinburgh pantomimes and christmas shows.

Deck the streets

You can't miss the brightly lit giant Christmas tree from Norway which is erected at the top of the Mound, and George Street and Princes Street are decked with fairie lights and yuletide decorations.

The switch-on of the Christmas lights is watched by several thousand people at the end of November.

It wouldn't be christmas without Santa, and there's no lack of portly, white-bearded chaps and, for that matter, ladies hitting the ground for the Great Scottish Santa Run. Hundreds of them.

Pantos and Christmas Shows

Pantomime at the theatre is as traditional as mince pies around the tree at this time of year. Levity and fantasy are the order the day, often with cross-dressing and updated, comical versions of traditional fairytales. Read's round-up of Edinburgh pantomime and Christmas shows 2012 (panto reviews 2012201120102009).

Christmas services

There's, of course, many Christmas carol services at Edinburgh churches, with the Christmas Eve carol services at St Giles on the Royal Mile among the most popular - the pews are packed.

Tom Chalk's nativity scene, a realistic interpretation of the biblical christmas scene that the artist was commissioned to do in 2003, also is found in St Andrew Square.

Winter Wonderland

You can get your skates on at Edinburgh's Winter Wonderland ice-rink which is set up temporarily in East Princes Street Gardens and there's rides on the Edinburgh Wheel, a ferris wheel that rises and falls beside the Scott Monument. The 33 metre high Edinburgh Wheel does over 2 million rotations during the festive period.

Meanwhile, West Princes Street Gardens is home to Santa (just one this time). You can post your letters in his special letterbox at Santa’s Reindeer Garden and ride the train - Santa's Express.

A programme of popular, christmas themed storytelling events are held at the Scottish Storytelling Centre too.

Christmas Markets: Smell the glühwein

There's also various christmas themed markets running during the festive season. The Christmas German market is a popular one at the Mound Precinct with its steaming mulled wine, bratwurst, cheeses, roasted chestnuts, and other festive fare. There's also a crafty "Highland Village" set up in East Princes Street Gardens under the Edinburgh Wheel and the shorter Real Scottish Christmas Fair on Castle Street.

Carbon footprint

Calculations for previous years estimate that there are over 200,000 individual bulbs that light up Edinburgh’s Christmas, with over 10 kilometres of cabling.


To some extent Edinburgh's weather dictates the success of these christmas events. If we're lucky the city is crispy chilled and dry. But it can be dreich, windy and wet. Too warm and the ice rink melts.