Christmas comes early in Edinburgh

The programme for Edinburgh's Christmas 2016/2017 has been unwrapped.

Edinburgh's Christmas 2016
Edinburgh's Christmas 2016

The annual festive event is one of the most popular Christmas celebrations in the UK and is produced by Underbelly on behalf of the City of Edinburgh Council.

2016 will see the biggest, brightest and best programme of events and entertainment across the city centre to date. The celebration expands into the West End for the first time, stretching from Festival Square to George Street, St Andrew Square in the East End and of course East Princes Street Gardens.

Councillor Richard Lewis, Edinburgh’s Festivals and Events Champion, said: “This winter, the curtain will rise at the West End as Edinburgh’s Christmas expands right across the city. An exciting new collaboration between the Capital’s theatres and the Usher Hall will take Edinburgh’s Christmas to the stage, while the Street of Light will move to George Street for its second year. The events drew over one million visitors last year and regulars will be delighted to hear festive favourites like Santa’s Grotto, the Big Wheel and ice rink will return. With such a colourful programme, I’m sure Edinburgh’s Christmas will hold on to its reputation as one of the most popular winter celebrations in the UK!”

Charlie Wood and Ed Bartlam, Edinburgh’s Christmas, said: “This is the fourth year of Underbelly producing Edinburgh’s Christmas on behalf of the City of Edinburgh Council and during that time the event itself and the positive impact it has socially on the residents of Edinburgh and economically for the businesses in the city and the city itself have grown substantially. In 2016 we are looking forward to putting on the biggest event yet, stretching from St Andrew Square to the West End, from the hit musical Five Guys Named Moe in a fantastic new production in Festival Square Theatre, to a partnership with Standard Life offering 10,000 free ice skating tickets to schoolchildren, from Street of Light transforming George Street to the local choirs of Edinburgh on Light Night. Edinburgh in winter is truly world class and proves yet again, it’s the place to be.”

The event will run from Friday 18 November 2016 to Saturday 7 January 2017. Highlights will include:

The stunning Street of Light which moves to West George Street and opens on 20 November as part of Light Night. This huge 60,000 bulb success in 2015 returns in 2016, this time located on the west end of George Street, spreading the beneficial effect to the West End of Edinburgh; with music from local choirs and bands including the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, Royal Scottish National Orchestra Junior Chorus, the hottest contemporary fiddle music from the Highlands and Islands, Blazin’ Fiddles, and Scotland’s very own bhangra group Tigerstyle. Last year’s spectacular was all about spectating, this year we want to get you singing and dancing. Free to access.

A new partnership with one of Edinburgh’s biggest employers, Standard Life, which will be gifting 10,000 free tickets to school children in Edinburgh. They will have a chance to take a free spin around the ice rink in the stunning setting of St Andrew Square between 18 November 2016 and 7 January 2017. Standard Life free tickets for school children will be available from 11 October and all schools in Edinburgh will be eligible to apply and join in the celebrations.

The new Festival Square Theatre pops up on 18 November in Festival Square outside the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa, with a dazzling new production by Underbelly of the West End and Broadway hit Five Guys Named Moe, featuring the toe tapping, irresistible Clarke Peters’ musical with the hits of Louis Jordan including Early In The Morning, Choo Choo Ch’Boogie and Saturday Night Fish Fry plus many more performed on stage by our all singing and all dancing Five Guys and a live band.

And for families seeking the magic of Christmas Morgan & West: A (sort of) Christmas Carol Magic Show! (1 Dec – 7 Jan) brings the world’s most distinguished duo of Time Travelling Magicians Morgan & West with Dickens’s timeless classic A Christmas Carol, sort of.

Spreading the Christmas effect across the city, and working in partnership with fellow theatres in Edinburgh’s West End for the first time, Christmas on Stage sets out to draw audiences to some of the best Christmas entertainment around. The partnership between the Lyceum, Traverse, Usher Hall and Edinburgh’s Christmas will celebrate live theatre and music in Edinburgh’s West End. 

2016 also sees the return of the popular Edinburgh resident’s 20% discount across all shows, rides and events. In 2015 99,990 tickets were sold to Edinburgh residents accessing their 20% off tickets, providing a total saving of over £170,000 to residents across the city. 

Sunday 20 November is Light Night in Scotland’s capital city when the Christmas lights are switched on across the city. This hugely popular event last year saw almost 20,000 people gather to watch over a thousand local performers take a starring role in this free event marking the beginning of Christmas. This year Light Night will again be hosted by Forth One DJ Arlene Stuart and will incorporate the opening of Street of Light and performances by Edinburgh Festival Chorus, Royal Scottish National Orchestra Junior Chorus and other Edinburgh and Scottish choirs and bands. Free to access.

East Princes Street Gardens remains a centre point for families with Santa’s Grotto, the Santa Train and the Christmas Tree Maze providing lots of Christmas magic to kids aged 1 to 99. Favourite rides including the Star flyer, traditional Carousel and the Big Wheel return. The Gardens fling wide their gates on Saturday 19 November. Free to access.

The Scottish Market With everything from local produce stalls to Scottish artists and craftsmen selling their wares, moves to sit next to Street of Light in George Street, opening on 26 November. Free to access.

With the support of Western Toyota, 25 schools in Edinburgh are taking part in Winter Windows, the creative project conceived by Underbelly in 2014. During the autumn term, each school will work with pupils to design stained glass windows with the theme of architecture, reflecting 2016’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. The best window design from each school will be displayed in East Princes Street Gardens to be seen by the millions of visitors to Edinburgh’s Christmas, giving local school children a great way to get involved in the festivities and show off their artistic talents. Free to access.

24 Doors of Advent returns allowing residents and visitors to peep behind usually closed doors throughout the city throughout advent. In 2016, working with Festival of Architecture and Royal Incorporation of Architects Scotland (RIAS), 24 Doors of Advent opens many new doors for you to explore behind this year including Royal Lyceum Theatre, the Chapel of St Albert the Great & BT Murrayfield Stadium. Free to access.

A Nativity Carol Concert will take place on Sunday 27 November, 3pm at St Andrew Square.In conjunction with St Andrews and St Georges West and Edinburgh Churches Together, at the start of Advent, a carol concert will take place around the Nativity Scene in St Andrew Square, generously donated to Edinburgh by Sir Tom Farmer. Free to access.

Tickets for all ticketed events are available from Edinburgh's Christmas.

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