A week today will be Christmas Eve - if you haven't already been enjoying the winter wonderland of attractions from Edinburgh's Christmas, there's still time to catch a ride on the big wheel or on the star-flyer (if your stomach allows it). And in case you thought all the flashing lights and market stalls were a recent invention, an article from the Scotsman on 18th December 1923 celebrated that year's Waverley Market Carnival, proving that Edinburgh is no stranger to Christmas cheer:
"The cold, drab, prosaic aspect of the Market has vanished for the time being, as if by the waving of a fairy’s wand," the article says, "and the interior of the building presents an appearance of animation, brightness, and gaiety in keeping with the joyous spirit of the season."
Then, as now, there were stalls and sideshow attractions, including performing animals, which Edinburgh Council would scarcely countenance licensing today: "There are acts by dogs, which display wonderful cleverness; there are astonishing balancing feats by sea lions; there is a boxing pony...."
The Waverley Market was not far from the site of today's 'carnival', above Waverley Station. It was the city's principle fruit and vegetable market up until 1973, and the site also featured an exhibition space where a variety of shows were staged throughout the year, including dog shows, car shows, and a variety of circus and carnival attractions, such as the Christmas carnival. The market site was demolished and redeveloped as the modern shopping centre, today branded as Princes Mall, but previously retaining the Waverley name.
"When one enters this atmosphere of dazzling delights, laughter, and music," the Scotsman reviewer wrote, in 1923, "even the most staid person feels constrained to enter into the fun of the fair." The same can easily said of the modern incarnation of this seasonal extravaganza, with two skating rinks - including a circular rink around the Melville Monument in St Andrew's Square - the big wheel, star flyer, children's Christmas tree maze and other family friendly rides, hot food and drink stalls, and with the Spiegeltent (usually seen during the Fringe in the summer months) providing hours of festive entertainment indoors too.
Edinburgh's Christmas runs until 4th January, and if you're visiting Edinburgh over the festive period, why not book an Up-Close and Personal Tour to get to know the city better?
Inspired by an entry in Michael TRB Turnbull's The Edinburgh Book of Days.
Edinburgh Expert is run by Gareth Davies, an adopted native of Edinburgh with 18 years of experience living and working in the city.