Edinburgh's Christmas 2021: Thumbs up or thumbs down? - Liam Rudden
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From the bustling market stalls in East Princes Street Gardens to the ice rink on George Street and the projected 'Be Kind Here' motto projected onto the Melville Monument in St Andrew's Square, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Oh, and let's not forget the glittering facade and twinkle wrapped pillars of The Dome.
It was a very different experience to last year when the city was stripped of its 'winter wonderland' cloak and devoid of tourists. However, while we may be seeing the return of a degree of normality, today's experience remains a shadow of what we had in 2019, when Edinburgh' s Christmas last swamped the city with its festive bonhomie.
Depending on your perspective, that's either a good thing or bad thing. I find myself erring towards the former.
It's unlikely a staging of the event we witnessed two years ago will return any time soon. The pandemic has put paid to that. Covid seems to have tempered our appetite for blockbuster events and parties, an attitude being reinforced by fears around the Omicron variant.
The fact that a recent public consultation highlighted dissatisfaction with the Disneyfication of Edinburgh at Christmas has also caused the Council to make the right noises ahead of 2022's local government elections.
One of the main proposals to relieve stress on the city's infrastructure is to dilute the offering crammed onto Princes Street, spreading the celebrations more widely across the Capital.
Already, that seems to be happening, this year's setup appeared a far more relaxed and organic affair as I wandered through town and while the cramped nature of the markets themselves saw me ignore a brief notion to nip along the alleys that run between the stalls to check out the wares on display.
Has to be said, the smell of roasting chestnuts certainly added to the atmosphere, although they do smell so much nicer than they taste as I discovered the one only time I bought a poke.
Quick exception to that, there is always one, isn't there, and that's The Dome's Christmas cocktail, which this year is a nod to Scottish Ballet's production at the Festival Theatre. Yes, it is called a Nutcracker and finds Woodford Reserve bourbon, maple syrup, gingerbread foam and, you've guessed it, chestnut liquor, all mixed together to produce a drink that is simply Christmas in a glass.
At the other end of George Street, ice skating dominates the scene and I’ve got to say, on the day I was there more locals seemed to be enjoying the experience than visitors. Just be sure to remember that as an Edinburgh resident you get 20% of any Edinburgh Christmas attraction, so be sure to bring proof of address. You’ll find full details at www.edinburghschristmas.com
There’s something quite magical about any ice rink located in the middle of a city, from New York’s world famous rink at the Rockefeller Centre to London’s Natural History Museum rink they bring life and laughter with them, Edinburgh’s is no different, which is exactly what we all need this festive season.