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The 28 best events for Edinburgh’s Christmanay fortnight

Scottish Ballet Nutcracker

The time surrounding Christmas and Hogmanay is an odd one: a time of irregular working hours, leftovers for every meal and scraps of wrapping paper and tinsel floating around your flat like tumbleweed. the capital's cultural calendar does slow down around the same time - heck, even culture-makers need to take time off at Christmas - but there's still plenty to keep you occupied, from big Boxing Day cinema releases to the inevitable Hogmanay clubs blow-out. 

Things to Do

Festive Family Fun Day, Palace of Holyrood House, Sun Dec 28
The Queen's official Scottish residence comes over all Christmassy at this family-friendly event, with storytelling, face painting, arts and crafts, festive food and Christmas carol performances, plus classic Victorian games, activities and costumes for the kiddies.

The Loony Dook, South Queensferry, Thu Jan 1
Ah, New Year's Day - a time of long-lie ins, tender hangovers and... plunging yourself headfirst into the freezing waters of the Forth River?You don't have to be an absolute loony to take part in South Queenferry's traditional Loony Dook, but it certainly doesn't hurt. 

Edinburgh’s Christmas, City Centre, until Sun Jan 4
Three Christmas markets, an ice rink apiece in St Andrew Square and Princes Street and a fully operational Santa Land now complement the iconic Big Wheel at the capital's annual festive festival, with numerous shows and performances into the evening. 

Game Masters, National Museum of Scotland, until Mon Apr 20
Giving the museum an atmosphere of arcade excitement, 'Game Masters' celebrates over 30 years of video gaming history, including the work of Peter Molyneux ('Minecraft'), Warren Spector ('Deus Ex'), Tim Schafer ('Grim Fandango') and Hideo Kojima ('Metal Gear Solid').

Theatre & Dance

The Devil Masters, Traverse Theatre, Sat Dec 6-Wed Dec 24
Surreal black comedy in which an upper-middle class couple - both working in the legal profession - enter into tense negotiations when an intruder breaks into their home.

White, Traverse Theatre, until Wed Dec 24
Child-friendly festive show in which an entirely white world gradually becomes infected with colour in the run-up to Christmas.

The BFG, Royal Lyceum Theatre, until Sat 3 Jan
The Lyceum’s Christmas show this year is a restaging of Roald Dahl’s gruesome fairytale concerning plucky orphans, man-eating giants and stinky snozzcumbers.

Scottish Ballet’s The Nutcracker, Edinburgh Festival Theatre, until Sat Jan 3
A traditional Christmas highlight, 'The Nutcracker' (as choreographed by company founder Peter Darrell) is one of the biggest guns in the Scottish Ballet armoury. This year's edition features sets from Olivier Award-winning designer Lez Brotherston, as young Clara dreams her way through adventures with the Nutcracker Prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Stick Man, St Andrew Square, until Sun Jan 4
Julia Donaldson’s story of a twiggy hero attempting to return home to the family tree is adapted for the stage by children’s theatre company Scamp (who previously proved their book adaptation chops with Michael Morpurgo's ‘Private Peaceful’).

Wicked, The Edinburgh Playhouse, until Sat Jan 10
The hit West End musical is finally on tour around the UK, letting Edinburgh’s theatre-goers in on the origin story of the Wicked Witch of the West.

Aladdin, King’s Theatre, until Sun Jan 18
In Edinburgh’s pantomime season, this is the grand daddy (or dame). Panto pros Allan Stewart, Andy Gray and the villainous Grant Stott (boo hiss!) are the ones rubbing the lamp this year, with 3D special effects now a standard part of the bargain. 


Al Murray: The Pub Landlord’s Festive Saloon, St Andrew Square, Mon Dec 29-Wed Dec 31 
The satirical character creation hosts a festive variety show of comedy, music and more. 


Generation: 25 Years of Contemporary Scottish Art, Scottish National Galleries, until Sun Jan 25
The nationwide Generation project, which celebrates the last quarter-century of Scottish visual art, rumbles on with exhibitions and installations at all three of Edinburgh’s National Galleries. We’re particularly impressed with the fantastic show at Modern Art One, which features works by Ross Sinclair, Graham Fagen, Douglas Gordon, Alison Watt and Charles Avery.

Chloe Dewe Mathews: Shot at Dawn, Stills Gallery, until Sun Jan 25
Catch this evocative photography exhibition, which captures landscapes of WWI execution sites in the modern day, before it heads down south to the Tate.

RSA Open, Royal Scottish Academy, until Tue Jan 20
It’s time again for the Royal Scottish Academy’s always essential Open exhibition, bringing together contemporary artists from across Scotland and beyond.

Christopher Orr: The Beguiled Eye, Talbot Rice Gallery, until Sat Feb 14
There's a contrast of style and content in this exhibition, as Orr uses the artistic grammar of the Old Masters to depict anachronistic scenes from 1950s postcards and National Geographic magazines, overlaying the whole with a sinister, spectral element.

Gap in the Air: A Festival of Sonic Art, Talbot Rice Gallery, until Sat Feb 14
Making fantastic use of William Playfair’s domed Georgian Gallery design, this series showcases sonic art in one of the city’s most acoustically-inclined galleries. The season kicks of with Disinformation’s sine wave installation ‘The Analysis of Beauty’.

Stan Douglas, Fruitmarket Gallery, until Sun Feb 15
Exhibition of the Canadian artist's noirish film, video and photography works that explore the junction between history and memory. 

BP Portrait Award, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, until Sun Apr 12
Prestigious international portraiture exhibition, showcasing selected entries in addition Thomas Ganter’s winning painting of a homeless German windscreen washer.

Tony Conrad: Invented Acoustical Tools, Inverleith House, until Sun Jan 18
Marking his debut solo appearance in the UK, this exhibition brings together several of the American artist’s musical instruments, as well as screening his 1966 film ‘The Flicker’.

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse: Ponte City, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, until Sun Apr 26
The titular 54-storey residential block in Johannesburg, South Africa was originally built as an upmarket living space for white residents in the 1970s. Post-apartheid, and following a failed renovation, the crumbling monolith is now home to a large number of immigrants from neighbouring African nations. Subotzky and Waterhouse's photography documents the recent history of these immigrants and the building.

Music & Nightlife

Supermoon, Voodoo Room, Sun Dec 28
With beloved Edinburgh indie group Meursault now firmly put to bed, singer-songwriter Neil Pennycook embarks on a new lo-fi project with occasional electronic flourishes. Support at this gig comes from another phoenix-like figure - Ultras is the new outing from Gav Prentice, formerly of Over the Wall.

Madchester Boxing Day Bash, Liquid Room, Fri Dec 26
UK hip hop electronica stalwarts the Stereo MCs join the long-running baggy anthem night in celebrating their 20th birthday.

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, various venues, Tue Dec 30-Thu Jan 1 
The capital's three-day end-of-year blow-out is justly regarded as one of the finest shindigs in the world. Get into the Concert in the Gardens to see Lily Allen's headline set; join thousands of revellers at the Street Party, soundtracked by homegrown heroes The Twilight Sad, Twin Atlantic and Mercury Prize winners Young Fathers; or forego the hangover route and save yourself for New Year's Day, when a selection of Scotland's finest creatives (including King Creosote, Alasdair Roberts, Withered Hand and Neu Reekie) stage special events as part of the Scot:Lands programme.

Hogmanay Clubs, various venues, Wed Dec 31
There are so many great club night taking place on New Year’s Eve that we simply don’t have the space to outline them all here. Thankfully, we do have that space over here.


Big Eyes, from Fri Dec 26
Tim Burton directs this biopic of 1950s artist Margaret Keane (here played by Amy Adams), whose husband Walter (Christoph Waltz) took credit for her popular paintings of big-eyed children.

Annie, from Fri Dec 26
'Beasts of the Southern Wild's Quvenzhane Wallis stars in this remake of the 1982 musical as the orphan who embarks on an adventure when she is adopted by wealthy Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx taking on the Daddy Warbucks role).

Exodus: Gods and Kings, from Fri Dec 26
Following on from of Darren Aronofsky's 'Noah', Ridley Scott delivers his own effects-laden biblical epic, this one focusing on Moses (Christian Bale) and the seven plagues of Egypt.

Unbroken, from Fri Dec 26
Angelina Jolie directs rising star Jack O'Connell ('Starred Up', '71') in this true WWII survival story penned by the Coen brothers.