“Christmas at the Botanics” – an enchanting walk in the park amidst the glittering glow of fairy lights and festive fire.
After enticing 70,000 visitors to the inaugural event in 2017, and 76,000 in 2019, “Christmas in the Botanics” is back again, transforming the garden at night into a winter wonderland. With the pantomime season cancelled for 2020, this outdoor entertainment offers a magical treat for all the family.
Just a short walk from the West Gate, a choral rendition of Joy to the World will put you in festive mood as you stroll beside a meadow of giant snowballs like sparkling Christmas Tree baubles.
All around, the bare winter trees and evergreens glimmer and shimmer in colourful shadows. Wander over the Chinese Hillside with a garland of lanterns hanging from the branches beside the lake with a spouting fountain.
One of the highlights is the ‘Laser Garden’, where you are enveloped in a thick beam of green, glittering fairy lights, while a white mist swirls between the trees, creating a very spooky woodland atmosphere.
Kids will love to try to catch hold of these tiny, Tinkerbelle fairies, as they dance around you and sparkle along the path. This is a magical, theatrical moment and I really felt like a child again.
Another surreal sight, is the beautifully lit, tumbling waterfall at the Rock Garden, where the trees and plants are ‘painted’ in soft shades of green and purple. With the floating waterlilies in the pond, it’s like a landscape by Monet come to life.
Turning along each path of the trail, the Botanics is brightly illuminated with installations such as a crystal, be-jewelled Christmas Tree, ‘Starfield’ featuring twenty twinkling stars, and ‘Constellations’, with sculptures of Orion, Little Bear et al.
Warm up in the ‘Fire Garden’, ablaze with flickering bulbs and flaming torches, while you sing along to Silent Night. Through each different landscape, the air is filled with the familiar classics, Michael Buble is Walking in a Winter Wonderland, Chris Rea, Driving home for Christmas and for Kylie, It’s the Most Wonderful Time.
Listening to the sharp, clear quality of the soundtrack, you would think that the performers, choirs and orchestras are hidden behind the trees!
Enter the ‘Cathedral of Light’, an arch of flower bud lights through a long tunnel with a clever optical illusion. A dazzling, zigzag display of colourful Diamond lights is projected on the architectural structure of the towering Glass Houses, choreographed perfectly to the jazzy-rock music score by Metallica.
An artistic pile of Sledges is reminiscent of the sculpture, “Sled” (1969) by the German Fluxus artist, Joseph Beuys, who in fact visited this garden a few times, for an exhibition at Inverleith House.
This grand 18th century mansion is the backdrop to a magnificent animation with images of iconic places around the city from the Castle to the Forth Bridge.
The windows of the house are like the boxes of an Advent Calendar with the dates flicking over from 1st to 24th December, as Mariah Carey belts out, “All I want for Christmas is You.”
This enchanting walk through this series of installations is like a mixed box of well-designed, glittering Christmas Cards …. but unfortunately, there is no narrative or overall theme. At its heart, this event is for families with young children, so a simple story could link these different theatrical scenes together.
The Fairies in the Laser Garden could be trying to help a lost Reindeer in his search for Santa Claus. Children could then follow a fun and fantastical, Peter Pan-style journey, flying through the Constellation of stars, land of ice, snow and fire, from the Chinese Hilltop to Lapland. (Just an idea!)
And yes, a jolly Father Christmas does makes a magical appearance with his flowing white beard and a majestic red coat, waving outside his log cabin in the forest.
‘Christmas at the Botanics’ runs at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh on selected dates from 2nd December, 2020 to 3rd January 2021.
Information on dates, opening times, travel, parking, entrance gates and tickets: https://www.rbge.org.uk/whats-on/christmas-at-the-botanics-2020/
Tickets prices range from: Adult £19, Member £16, Child £13 (4-16), Family £60. Carers and children under 4, free. (subject to a single transaction charge).
A Pop-up Bar serves a range of food and drink *: e.g. Mulled Wine, Prosecco, Beer, Cider, Hot Chocolate, Tea, Coffee, soft drinks; Hot Dogs, Burgers, Veggie Burgers, BBQ snacks, Fries, & Children’s portions. (* but where are the traditional roasted chestnuts and mince pies?!)
‘Christmas at the Botanics’ is produced by events promoter Raymond Gubbay Limited a division of Sony Music, in partnership with the RGBE and Culture Creative, in collaboration with Mandylights, Lightworks, ArtAV, & Liverpool Lantern Company.