They came marching out of the old year bearing flaming torches. There were 10,000 of them, citizens and visitors, led by a band of Vikings, and accompanied by the heavy beat of rock music. If I was the New Year, I’d be very frightened indeed, they obviously mean to set me alight.
There was something defiant and patriotic about the torchlight procession that launched Edinburgh’s famous Hogmanay celebrations. By the time the march made its way along Princes Street to Calton Hill, there were over 30,000 people there. Mercifully, the rain held off. Indeed there was a starry sky above us, with Jupiter clearly visible and Orion beginning his tumble across the dark stage overhead.
On the ground, a carpet of lighted torches stretched across the hillside. At the west end, a huge bonfire blazed in the wind. Then the crowd was blown away by a son-et-lumiere show which began with purple lights playing on the pillars of the National Monument and the Trafalgar Tower and ended with great crackles and bangs from a five-minute firework display.
And the torchlight procession was just the beginning of the Hogmanay celebrations. The famous fireworks party marking the midnight hour in Princes Street is catering for its usual 80,000 spectators. A concert in the gardens featuring the Pet Shop Boys and Nina Nesbitt is a sell-out. So too is the outdoor Keilidh at the Mound. And, for those who enjoy their music a little more quietly, there’s a candlelit concert in St Giles Cathedral.
The rest of the country is joining in the fun with fire-work parties in Inverness, Stirling, Stonehaven, Biggar and, no doubt, a string of other towns and villages less well-known for their fire festivals. Glasgow’s George Square will be alight till 10pm but Glaswegians will all be tucked up in bed by midnight by order of the city fathers who fear the drunken revelry of Edinburgh will spread to their more godly city.
This rather special year of 2014 is to be marked by a linked son-et-lumiere show in Inverness, Stirling and Edinburgh earlier in the evening, at exactly 20.14. It’s one of the 430 events of the Year of Homecoming when Scots abroad will hopefully be coming home to watch the Bannockburn re-enactment, the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup and, of course, the excitements of the Referendum.