Lecco, Italy Host Advisory Board Member
Hi everyone 😊
When I was young, my parents would take my sister and I up to Edinburgh each December, to choose and buy presents for our family.
When I think back on those times I feel so nostalgic. As a kid, everything seemed so bright, so shiny, and so festive! I used to get so excited about picking out gifts for my grandparents, and being treated to a new outfit for the Christmas party at school.
One of my favourite places was Jenners department store. I loved to see the huge tree, rising up through the central atrium, past each floor, reaching to the ceiling. There were lots of rumours about how the tree got into the building. Some said that the roof of the building slid off, and some said it was elves!
The truth was just as fascinating. The tree would be manually lifted into the building by a group of local rugby players, while Jenners staff watched on from each floor, to the tunes of a local piper. The tree would then be decorated by a team of acrobats! I found a video here which shows the process.
Like everyone, the festive season was a bit different for me over the last couple of years, and I wasn’t able to see my family. I felt like I got a little Grinch-like as a result of that, and decided that it was time to plan a visit to Edinburgh to rediscover the spirit of the holiday season.
Originally I’d planned to visit Jenners, to try and recapture some of the magic, but sadly Jenners closed down and is being revamped as a luxury hotel, with retail and food outlets on the lower floors.
I decided to take a trip to the Christmas Market, which is up and running again, for the first time without COVID restrictions since 2019. It returns under new ownership, and like previous years, has proved to be incredibly popular.
The bustling market was busy even at 12pm on a weekday, with fairground rides operating, and it was great to see local small businesses selling their products to the enthusiastic crowds. I saw everything from candles, to handmade jewellery, to woollen hats.
There was plenty of food and drink on offer, with local businesses offering culinary delights both Bavarian and Scottish. My favourite bar was located in the bottom of a helter skelter, so I took a quick snap to share! You can see the old Jenners building in the background, on the right of the photo.
As it was early in the day, I decided not to sample any of the craft ales, mulled wine or tipsy hot chocolate on offer… but I might go back one evening with friends!
While the Christmas Market was really lovely, it didn’t inspire the festive spirit I was looking for, so I decided to exit after admiring the showmanship of some of the stall-holders. There’s some great characters working there, and it was fun to watch everyone so enthralled.
My next idea was to call in on an old friend at work (Camilla), who I haven’t seen since February 2020, just before Scotland went into lockdown for the first time. Imagine my joy to end up here:
Badger & Co is a lovely cocktail bar situated at the far end of Castle Street, not too far from the festivities on Princes Street, and as you can see they wholeheartedly embraced the festive vibes!
The bar is a homage to the wonderful Wind in the Willows novel, and is full of quirky and whimsical decor, all dressed up in festive finery:
After a hug that lasted around five minutes, Camilla took the time to show me around the pub, before sitting me down to watch her in action making cocktails. Obviously, I had to do a taste test, so she whipped up a Passionfruit Daquiri mocktail for me:
It was quite possibly one of the most delicious non-alcoholic drinks I’ve ever had!
I spent the next few hours watching Camilla at work, and had a bite to eat. The menu is tailored to Scottish and/or Christmas themed foods, and I ended up choosing fries with turkey, gravy, cranberries, red cabbage and spring onion… topped with a pig in a blanket. It was so good that people entering the bar looked at it, and said “I want what she’s having”. Of course, I had to snap a photo of that too.
All too soon I had to leave, and so I wandered out into the dusk, belly full and heart fuller for seeing a friend that I’ve been wanting to catch up with for so long. I made a few quick stops to buy some Christmas gifts, and then before I knew it I was on the train home.
So, did I manage to rediscover the spirit of the holiday season? Well, yes!
Although Jenners has gone, and the Christmas Markets weren’t quite what I was looking for, it was still lovely to be back in the city that I used to live in. It was great to see the lights, the happy faces, and the familiar landmarks.
What I’ve learned from my day out is that the holiday spirit isn’t in the places you go or the presents you buy. Sometimes the simplest way to feel goodwill and peace is simply by surprising an old friend and reconnecting. It’s in the hearts and minds of the people we care about, whether friends or family. Sometimes these people are both.
Nice post! You are a great writer, storyteller. And you described some things of Edinburgh in such an interesting way and with such beautiful photos that it makes us want to know that city and its food.
What a wonderful story @Jenny of your trip to Edinburgh this year. Thank you for sharing this delightful memory of Christmases past with the feelings and excitement that you once experienced. When we open our hearts and minds we can experience new traditions every year to make our holiday season totally awesome. Edinburgh looks beautiful at this time of year and I think that the new Jenners Hotel with such a remarkable history going back to 1838 will bring back some of the holiday magic that you once experienced as a child.
Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
@Jenny thank you for sharing your childhood memories of Christmas shopping with your parents. When we lived in Sydney we always visited David Jones store Christmas windows about 8 of them from memory all with different Christmas themes each year. It has been a tradition for 184 years this year. We always took our children in the evening to give them a magical view with all the coloured lights and less people..
This year theme is "A World of Wonder" presented in animation of joy and the gift of giving. The major window display is taken from the book "My Pet Star"
A magical story about the importance of kindness and friendship,.
When you get my age Jenny, every day is 'holiday season' !
I wake up in the morning and I heave a sigh of relief.....Ahhhh, I am here to enjoy another day, I don't have to rediscover it......I am living it!
I do however remember those summer holidays back in the 50's when we abandoned the farm property for a month and came down to spend a month by the sea.
Me on the sea wall........
We moved to town and my sister and I went to college......
In the 60's I met Ade......
God I thought I was Mr Cool.......
Please note the latest in letter writing aids proudly on display.
We married and our girls came along......
Have to say, that suit weathered the test of time!!!
We went through that full on fun time in our lives. Tom Sellick and Sandra Dee, eat y'r heart out!
1990's Our first visit to the old country.......
Hair is thinning and we are starting to mature.
Come the 2000's and we were still capable of some crazy things......
Now, all these years down the track our girls love us to bits......
And our grandies of course......
And I love looking back on all those years and rediscovering in my mind all those lovely holiday seasons we have had.......
Thanks for re-kindling all these lovely memories with your beautiful post. Have a great festive season Jenny and all the best for the coming year!
This is so lovely @Jenny—stunning photos too! ❤️ Having lived in Edinburgh, the lovely festive atmosphere brought me that end of year joy 🎄
P.s. there's a very nice Bratwurst stall at the Christmas market! 👀
Woah @Jenny ,
Each memory of yours is a lovely story that has been penned down beautifully! I would like to believe that the Christmas Tree at Jenners was brought in by the elves even if the video says otherwise😂. The Jenners building definitely looks like some Harry Potter stuff where you can get your magical wand! Loved the closing , indeed holiday spirit is all about reconnecting with self and the people we love! Picturesque 💝
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That sounds so fun! Now I know where to go if I am ever able to visit Edinburgh. Thank you for sharing the video of the tree raising too. So beautiful.