Did you know that Halloween customs we know and love are in fact the remnants of the ancient Scottish Samhuinn Fire Festival?
I will come as no surprise to learn that Halloween or rather, Hallowe’en, traces its origins way back to the ancient Celtic Samhuinn Festival. The celebration takes place on top of Calton Hill on the same night as Hallowe’en. The story follows the overthrowing of Summer by Winter, with a dramatic stand-off between the Summer and Winter Kings. This is overseen by the Cailleach, a Celtic representation of the Goddess, or Divine Hag, who ultimately decides each King’s fate and ushers in the colder months.
Many of the Halloween customs we know and love today are in fact remnants of this ancient culture, from trick-or-treating to jack-o’-lanterns. It also takes its name from All Hallows Eve, the night before the Christian festival of All Hallows or All Saints Day, when the dead were thought to return to earth to walk among the living. In the Celtic calendar, it marks the end of the lighter half (summer) and the beginning of the darker half (winter) of the year. Up to 2000 years ago, at Samhuinn Celtics honoured their ancestors and invited them home while warding off evil spirits. They wore costumes and masks to disguise themselves as harmful spirits and thus avoid harm. In the 19th century when Irish families emigrated to America in great numbers, they carried this tradition with them and the wearing of masks and costumes now survives as a Halloween custom.
Here is a video from the last edition of the Samhuinn Fire Festival in Edinburgh:
Until now, Samhuinn is still observed in most Celtic nations including, of course, Scotland! Among all the celebrations, the Samhuinn Fire Festival is definitely the most spectacular event with hundreds of otherworldly creatures showing up on a spooky ghostly night! Here is a selection of the best shots from last year’s event.
During the winter months in Edinburgh, you will have not only the possibility to experience seasonal events but also the opportunity to re-discover the city from a new point of view. From the Christmas market to New Year’s day, Edinburgh has so many different things to do, you will surely find something you love…
The two most famous places to go shopping in Edinburgh are undoubtedly Princes Street and George Street. But the beautiful Victoria Street in the old town is also a great place to find a variety of shops, bistros, restaurants and cafes. It also has its very own dedicated Christmas Shop which is open all year round!
The Christmas Market
The Christmas Market (also called the European Christmas Market) takes place each year from 19th November until the 7th January and is located on East Princes Street Gardens. This market is said to be quite romantic. There, you can buy food, drinks, gifts and crafts from around the world.
Walks in the snow
The Meadows is a large public park. Sometimes, during winter, it’s beautifully covered by the snow and children (but also adults) usually like to play there. There is also the Royal Botanic Garden which is nice to see and walk in when there is snow.
Edinburgh’s Christmas and Hogmanay
Edinburgh New Year (known as Hogmanay in Scotland) and Christmas are the biggest and most famous events taking place in winter. During those days, many events and activities will run in and around the city. If you want to have more information on the activities taking place during this time, please have a look at this blog.
Theatre, Ballet, Pantomime…
Edinburgh also has a wide range of different cultural activities for the winter. On the programme: theatre, ballet, circuses and pantomime. Whichever cultural event you would like to watch, you certainly won’t be disappointed. Just remember to book your tickets early! Black Beauty at The Traverse theatre is a famous classic tale which will be performed on stage during December in Edinburgh.
Make a Christmas wreath
On 17th and 18th December, you can learn how to make your very own Christmas wreath from scratch with at Lauriston Castle. During the workshop, you will create a beautiful giant wreath using fresh greenery grown at the castle.
Are you thinking of learning a new language or brushing up on your existing skills?
Our language centre is centrally located in Edinburgh’s West End and has a relaxed yet professional atmosphere for an enjoyable learning experience. We also provide free tea & coffee, Wi-Fi and a comfortable student’s lounge. inlingua’s world-renowned teaching method was established in 1968 and has been proven to get results time and time again.
Our new term for evening courses will begin from 10th September 2018.
Classes suited to each ability (no mixed-level groups)
Week-night Courses details
Classes take place once per week from 18:30 to 20:00 for 90 minutes. The full cost is £180 per term (all course materials and refreshments included). Duration: 12 weeks with 5 to 10 students, 10 weeks with 4 students or 8 weeks with 3 students in the group
Booking is now open for all languages, so book early to secure your place and avoid disappointment!
Arthur’s Seat, an ancient volcano, is the main peak of the group of hills in Edinburgh which form most of Holyrood Park. It is situated just to the east of the city centre, about 1 mile (1.6 km) to the east of Edinburgh Castle. The hill rises above the city to a height of 250.5 m (822 ft), provides excellent panoramic views of the city and beyond, is relatively easy to climb, and is popular for hillwalking.
Though it can be climbed from almost any direction, the easiest and simplest ascent is from the east, where a grassy slope rises above Dunsapie Loch. At a spur of the hill, Salisbury Crags has historically been a rock climbing venue with routes of various degrees of difficulty; however due to hazards rock climbing is now restricted to the South Quarry and a free permit is required.
It is also the site of a large and well preserved fort. This is one of four hill forts dating from around 2000 years ago. With its diverse range of flora and geology it is also site of Special Scientific Interest.
Experience a proper hill walk in the heart of the city. Arthur’s Seat’s rocky summit towers over Edinburgh, with fabulous views in all directions, and the extensive parkland surrounding it is an oasis of calm as a retreat from the busy city.
Within the park you can also visit St Anthony’s Chapel – a 15th century medieval chapel, Salisbury Crags – a series of 150 foot cliff faces dominating Edinburgh’s skyline as well as Duddingston Loch – a fresh water loch rich in birdlife.
Arthur’s Seat is often mentioned as one of the possible locations for Camelot, the legendary castle and court of the Romano-British warrior-chief, King Arthur.
Tradition has it that it was at the foot of Arthur’s Seat, covered by the forest of Drumselch, that Scotland’s 12th-century king David I encountered a stag while out hunting. Having fallen from his horse and about to be gored, he had a vision of a cross appearing between the animal’s antlers, before it inexplicably turned away, leaving him unharmed. David, believing his life had been spared through divine intervention, founded Holyrood Abbey on the spot. The burgh arms of the Canongate display the head of the stag with the cross framed by its antlers.
The slopes of the hill facing Holyrood are where young girls in Edinburgh traditionally bathe their faces in the dew on May Day to make themselves more beautiful. The poem ‘Auld Reekie’, written by Robert Fergusson in 1773, contains the lines:
On May-day, in a fairy ring,
We’ve seen them round St Anthon’s spring,
Frae grass the cauler dew draps wring
To weet their een,
And water clear as crystal spring
To synd them clean
The exquisite Rosslyn Chapel is a masterpiece in stone. It used to be one of Scotland’s best kept secrets, but it became world-famous when it was featured in Dan Brown’s the Da Vinci Code. Rosslyn Chapel is part of our social programme every 3 weeks.
Here some pictures from last week:
Art historian Helen Rosslyn, whose husband’s ancestor built the chapel over 500 years ago, is the guide on a journey of discovery around this perfect gem of a building. Extraordinary carvings of green men, inverted angels and mysterious masonic marks beg the questions of where these images come from and who were the stonemasons that created them? Helen’s search leads her across Scotland and to Normandy in search of the creators of this medieval masterpiece.
Founded in 1446, as the Collegiate Church of St Matthew, Rosslyn Chapel today attracts visitors from far and wide, drawn by its unique and mysterious carvings and the beauty of its setting.
The chapel took some 40 years to complete and its ornate stonework and mysterious symbolism have inspired – and intrigued – artists and visitors ever since. Today, there are countless theories, myths and legends associated with the Chapel, many of which are impossible to prove or disprove conclusively.The Chapel’s tour guides will be able to tell you more about these, and about the history of the Chapel, during your visit.
Children free as part of a family group
Rosslyn Chapel is open throughout the year.
Monday-Saturday: 09.30 – 17.00
Sunday: 12 noon – 16.45
Last admission is 30 minutes before closing but we recommend at least one hour for your visit.