As midnight approaches, dark groups huddle on the freezing slope of one of the seven hills overlooking the soft yellow lights of the city of Edinburgh.
Phones read one minute to midnight, and countdowns begin sporadically over the hillside until the first explosion of light streaks up from the black silhouette of the castle, officially marking the end of the year.
Scotland’s capital city is renowned as one of the best places to celebrate New Year, even having its own term for the celebration – Hogmanay.
With a spectacular programme of events and a city centre sparkling with festive decorations, here’s why you should ring in 2024 in Edinburgh.
What is Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebration?
Hogmanay is the Scots word for the last day of the old year and in Edinburgh, it has also become synonymous with a festive bash of epic proportions.
Each year in the capital, Christmas festivities segue seamlessly into New Year celebrations – which Scotland extends until 2 January with an extra public holiday.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first official Hogmanay street party to take place in Princes Street and the event is now considered a ‘bucket list’ New Year celebration.
How to celebrate New Year in Edinburgh
Edinburgh’s Torchlight Procession
Edinburgh’s four-day Hogmanay programme kicks off on 29 December with the blazing Torchlight Procession (reinstated after cancellation last year).
This event sees some 20,000 participants carry aloft tall flaming tapers and parade through the city’s old town creating a mesmerising river of fire.
It’s a raucous, archaic event with fire performers, pipe bands and drummers igniting the crowd.
Formidable Vikings from Shetland’s South Mainland Up Helly Aa’ Jarl Squad draped in fur and brandishing shields lead the spine-tingling procession.
For each ticket sold, £2 (€2.30) is donated to Scottish homeless charity Social Bite.
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party
Hogmanay culminates with Edinburgh’s world-renowned street party, which attracted so many revellers in 2006 that its ticket number had to be capped.
Partygoers cram into Princes Street (closed off to cars along with surrounding roads) for a carnivalesque night of live music, pipes and drums, psychedelic street performers and street food.
In the park running alongside Princes Street – beneath the majestic castle atop a rocky outcrop – carousers can also attend the Concert in the Gardens.
This year sees cultural icons PULP headline with special guests Hot Chip performing a DJ set.
Edinburgh’s New Year fireworks
At the stroke of midnight, Edinburgh erupts in pyrotechnics. The crowning firework show is launched from the castle, where rockets and fountains soar up from the dark battlements.
When the dazzling display is over, people across the city join hands with friends or strangers to sing the ceremonial song Auld Lang Syne – based on a poem by revered Scots poet Robert Burns – to bid farewell to the old year.
Scotland’s first-footing tradition
Post warble, there is still one more age-old tradition that Scots partake in. First-footing – which possibly dates back to the Viking invasions in the 9th century – refers to the first person to cross a house’s threshold on New Year’s Day and the good – or bad – luck they bring.
Across Scotland, visitors enter the homes of friends or neighbours bearing gifts like coal, shortbread or whisky as symbols of good fortune.
Tall, dark-haired men are purported to bring the most luck, perhaps because in the era of Viking attacks, a blond stranger at your door was a cause for alarm.
If you’re a visitor to Edinburgh, you can join the free First Footin’ events in the old and new town where there is live music and performances in various pubs and venues from 2pm to 6pm.
Do you need tickets for Edinburgh Hogmanay?
Some events are ticketed, including the Torchlight Procession at £20 (€23), the Street Party at £28.50 (€32.80) and the Concert in the Gardens at £72.50 (€83.40).
Other events including First Footin’ are unticketed. You can watch the castle fireworks for free from various spots around Edinburgh including Inverleith Park, Calton Hill or Bruntsfield Links.