And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us—Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
-The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper
With it recently being the Winter Solstice, I found myself in a bit of a reflective mood. Many people tend to focus on the fact that it is the shortest day of the year and filled with darkness. However, I actually like winter and don’t mind the long nights. I think Susan Cooper’s opening poem beautifully captures the season, highlights important aspects about this wonderful time of year, and ties in nicely with the event that I will discuss in this
article. Last week, we were fortunate to attend The Christmas at the Botanics at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. It’s an interactive event that allows visitors to continue to celebrate the beauty of the Garden after dark. So, let’s begin our journey to see how that experience helped bring the poem to life.
There are two entrances (the East or West Gate) to Christmas at the Botanics depending on your mode of transportation. We entered at the East Gate as we took public transportation (shout out to Lothian Buses - they are an invaluable service that we use and appreciate daily). We were immediately greeted with seasonal music and a beautiful Christmas tree whose lights invited us in to explore more. One of the first stops we came across was called, Voyage. Delicate light changing origami boats floated on the pond and tranquil music surrounded us. The lights reflected off the water and the entire effect was exquisite.
We resumed our walk along the path and came across a food stand that was selling
marshmallows to grill on fire pits they had set up. However, these were not just plain marshmallows. They had a fun selection of flavours, and I chose the salted caramel. It was a cold night and the fire provided welcoming warmth as we toasted our marshmallows.
Continuing our theme, the following display, Fire Garden, was positively spectacular. The picture below doesn’t do justice to the magnificent exhibit that the Garden created. It is not difficult to understand why a cosy fireplace or flickering candles are timeworn traditions during the holiday and winter season. Fire has a mesmerising effect that is practical but also comforting; and this exhibit paid tribute to that tradition in the best way.
Considering the entire route, I had two favourites that I would like to feature. First, is the Cathedral of Light. This stunning display is made up of thousands of pea lights and is pure delight. I honestly felt my spirits lift as we took our time walking through it. According to the Garden, this is a returning display and I hope it will become an annual tradition for this event so that future visitors can experience its splendour.
However, my hands down favourite was the Glasshouse Show. The Victorian-designed glasshouse was lit up with lights and projections that seemed to dance along with the seasonal music that filled the air. Conveniently, there was a charming beverage stand right next to it. I made sure to do my part for research, and I got the deluxe hot chocolate loaded with marshmallows and whipped cream. I can confirm that it was delectable and helped to fill me with holiday cheer. As I stood there enjoying the show, I forgot about the chilly weather, and for a brief moment, I felt as if I was in Florida as I admired the lovely palm trees that frame the glasshouse.
There is so much more that Christmas at the Botanics offers, but I want to leave some surprises for guests. Overall, it was a delightful, interactive event that incorporated a wonderful array of special effects- lasers, light projections, music, and more (scroll the slideshow below for additional pictures of the show). If you are visiting Edinburgh during the Christmas season, we highly recommend going to Christmas at the Botanics. It is being held at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh until 29 December. If you would like to attend, be sure to check their website in advance for ticket availability and important planning information. If you are interested in reading more about RBGE in general, please check out our previous article on it.
For those celebrating, we wish you all a Merry Christmas Eve and Happy Hannukah!
Until next time- Explore & Discover!