Best Christmas Celebrations in Edinburgh vs. Sydney

Christmas and New Year celebrations are a time to come together and rejoice; their warmth and the promise of a new year is felt around the globe. If given the chance, where would you ring in the new year? Would it be somewhere cold and cosy like Edinburgh or warm and sunny like Sydney?


December 31st 2021 in Edinburgh


Wrapped up in a parka, two pairs of socks and the woolly had mum knit you three years ago for Christmas, you head off, down the cobbled streets to meet up with your mates, flask filled with Laphroaig whisky tucked into the coat pocket. You admire the bravery of anyone you pass, donning a traditional kilt. Though made of wool, the cold wind feels a bit too bracing for anything less than trousers. As you clamber down the streetlight lit road, the sky already dark by 4 pm, you marvel at the Christmas traditions you’re now able to celebrate.

Christmas celebrations were banned in Scotland by the Presbyterian Church for nearly 400 years, which is why “Hogmanay” is such a big celebration. Though now, the refrigerator is still full of leftover turkey, haggis, neeps and tatties, you can’t imagine what that must have been like. You find your friends, all with Brewdog beer or similar in hand outside the pub on Rose Street. Though celebrations will be much smaller this year, as Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street party to commemorate the last day of the Gregorian calendar, has just been postponed for Covid safety reasons, you’re still glad to see some loved ones in person.

bagpipes in edinburgh

What’s under the Kilt? Socks and shoes, of course!

In previous years Hogmanay, a glorious three-day-long party, would kick off on the 29th at the Bells on Princes Street, alongside a wonderful torchlit procession down the Royal Mile accompanied by bagpipes and other traditional folk music.

fireworks at christmas

Who said Edinburgh can’t heat up?!

It would culminate, as it did every year, with an iconic fireworks display set off from Edinburgh Castle that sent crowds cheering with glee. Depending on bravery or brewery, this even sometimes included a dip in the Water of Leith! Covid or not, some traditions remain, including a customary first-footing; the belief that whoever is the first to cross the threshold in the new year will bring fortune to their house. Tall dark men bringing gifts have always been welcome as first footers and signs of good things to come. Hear that, tall dark handsome men of Scotland?

The night always includes singing a few festive rounds of “Auld Lang Syne” thanks to the popular Robbie Burns. And for those in the villages in the outskirts of Edinburgh, fire-related activities like the Stonehaven Fireball festival and bonfires are always included.

Big or small, welcoming in the New Year with Hogmanay traditions, friends, family and a few good laughs always does the heart some good. Cheers to a new start and a new year ahead!

Lang may yir lum reek wi ither fowks’s coal!



Meanwhile, Across the World in Sydney

26th December 2021


You’ve been up since just after sunrise, well before 6 am. No matter though, the gorgeous 27-degree weather will keep you perky as you prepare for the afternoon and evening’s festivities.

The evening’s Carols by Candlelight will start around 9pm, just after sunset. It’s Boxing Day and, as tradition calls for, you take to the beach to meet up with friends for an annual barbecue on Bondi Beach, consisting of prawns and lobster followed by pavlova – it’s too warm for anything else.

christmas celebrations in sydney

“Dusty the Sand-man was a jolly happy soul…”

Christmas dinner was much the same and delicious; Sydney rock oysters, blue swimmer crabs and black mussels. Cracking open a cold brew or chilled Chardonnay or Riesling alongside some bubbly to toast with friends, you’re so grateful to have made it through a challenging year with them

spend christmas holidays in sydney

Definitely NOT a bridge over “troubled waters”!

It’s been a year isolated from much of the world, but at least you still have each other! Laughs will be plentiful, shared amongst friends and loved ones who will be dressed much like you are, in shorts or a sundress, maybe with a Santa hat as the season requires. Later you’ll watch the annual Yacht race or the Cricket Test Match on TV.

On New Year’s Eve, you’ll reconvene at Sydney Harbour to take in the most spectacular fireworks display as you help kick off the world’s celebration in welcoming 2022. Thankfully for those families with children, there’ll be two showings, the first just after sunset at 9 pm so the young ones can head home to bed. There will be partying and music aplenty, with dancing well into the night. In fact, you might just camp on the beach and watch the sunrise on the first day of the new year.

Both Edinburgh and Sydney offer their charms for the holidays. So, which would you choose? Here’s my quick summary:




  • Everyone is in a great festive mood
  • There is so much to do for the holidays
  • Edinburgh is pretty close for many travellers
  • It’s more comfortable to snuggle with loved ones
  • The weather is perfect
  • There is so much to do for the holidays
  • Sydney is safe, in part, because of its strict alcohol regulations
  • The days are long so partying from sunset to sunrise is easy


  • OK, the weather can be a complete nightmare!
  • As the night progress, you’ll be unable to decipher the Scottish accent!
  • Sydney is a long way for most travellers
  • It can be a bit expensive this time of year


Isabella’s Recommendation: while I love both Edinburgh and Sydney dearly and I’ve passed the holidays in both cities, I’m going to recommend Edinburgh. The holidays are supposed to be cold! Snuggle with friends in a warm bar and enjoy the “Angel’s Share”!

Hot or cold, light or dark, bikini or woollens, ‘tis the season to raise a glass, look up at the night sky and marvel as you celebrate the good fortunes you’ve had, the love you’ve shared and all the good things yet to come. Wherever you are, we are wishing you good cheer for a happy, successful, and – above all – a healthy New Year!





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