Every year it seems like holiday preparations start even earlier than in years past, but at least the United States has Thanksgiving as a marker to delay the holiday arrangements. Of course, Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Scotland though Black Friday is somewhat practiced, which results in an almost two month long holiday celebration.
There are a few bars and restaurants that host a Thanksgiving dinner for the Americans in Scotland. I went to the Three Sisters where they put on American football and served us a three-course dinner fit with turkey and pumpkin pie. Despite their efforts, it did not feel like Thanksgiving since Christmas was already everywhere in the city. The following are a few events that Edinburgh puts on to celebrate the holidays:
Princes Street Gardens Christmas Market and Events
Princes Street, the main shopping center in Edinburgh, has been taken over by the Edinburgh Christmas Market! Open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. since Nov. 17 and until the Jan. 5, the market is a collection of delicious international delicacies, fantastic rides such as a Ferris Wheel and lots of retail booths selling expensive treasures as well as handmade items. The market is almost impassable during the weekend when everyone is available to attend, but it thins out during the week, which is the best time to go and really experience the market.
Near the market is also an ice-skating rink at St. Andrew’s Square with an oval shaped rink that has a cozy bar in the center selling delicious winter drinks like hot chocolate, mulled wine and hot toddies. A short walk from the ice-skating rink is a light show, called “Silent Night,” a street long spectacle you can walk, or dance, your way through with headphones and music synchronized to the lights. From afar it looks incredible.
University of Edinburgh
The University has its own unique methods for celebrating the holidays. The outside of Teviot Row House, the student union building, has been fully decked out with red, white and green string lights and spot lights. In the Garden Bar section of the building, a mini holiday market has been erected with winter drinks, stalls for shopping, music and warmers for the cold weather. Also, the inside of Teviot is just as impressive. There are huge Christmas trees in random corners as well as lights and ornaments hanging from the ceilings. The campus cafes are even giving out free minced pies with every purchase. (I happily discovered that minced pies do not have minced meat in them). A little walk away from the main campus center is Old College, one of the most photographed parts of campus—which has put up a giant outdoor tree decorated with lights in the center of the green space outside the building. It is a heartwarming site to pass by and glimpse on the way to and from campus.
Outdoor Festive Screenings
Quite a few bars are putting on outdoor holiday movie screenings every week leading up to Christmas. The market at Teviot is also hosting mini screenings as well in the Garden Bar area. The Three Sisters’ movie showings include classics like “Home Alone” and “Love Actually.” Their screenings are accompanied by festive street food stalls and holiday drinks. A couple movies Teviot will be screening include “The Polar Express” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” These films will surely put you in the holiday mood!
With the fast approaching winter break comes the inevitable exam period. Though I haven’t taken any exams yet (wish me luck!), I have found the process to be very different than in America. To start, classes end on Nov. 30 to give students a Reading and Revision week before the beginning of the exam period.
Revision involves rereading the semester’s material, planning for essay questions, memorizing facts or quotes—all to prepare for exams. A literature exam, for example, involves answering three essay questions within two hours, a very short period of time which requires you to really master the material, so you can write as quickly and thoughtfully as possible. The exam period lasts from the Dec. 11 to the Dec. 21. The University of Edinburgh’s winter break is actually very short; classes resume on Jan. 14.
I am amazed at just how fast the semester went and I am soon going to have to say goodbye to some great friends I have made who are studying abroad for only a semester. When I contemplate on all the places I have not visited the and things I have not yet done, I am reminded at how lucky and thankful I am to be studying abroad for a whole year. It is truly an invaluable experience and I highly recommend studying abroad for two semesters if possible.
Maria Marabito is a second-year student majoring in English writings track. MM883631@wcupa.edu