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Fire festival in Edinburgh to celebrate start of winter

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For the first time in 600 years the annual Samhuinn fire festival, celebrating the start of winter, will be held on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill.

More than 4,000 people will gather later to watch hundreds of performers retell ancient stories.

They will tell about the ritual battle between the summer and winter kings.

The organisers, Beltane Fire Festival, have found historical accounts of similar celebrations staged on the hill in the 1400s.

With nearly 20 performance groups and almost 400 volunteers taking part, this is the largest Samhuinn production in Beltane Fire Society’s history.

What has typically been seen as the community’s smaller Winter festival this year grew to be larger than its flagship event, Beltane Fire Festival, which usually has around 300 performers.

The festival celebrates Scotland’s heritage with a modern reimagining of traditional Samhuinn celebrations.

The new venue this year means the performance, which usually takes the form of a procession through the city centre’s streets, is “uniquely immersive”.

Winter and summer characters wake up and battle it out all over Calton Hill, so audience members can choose their own route through the story and wander between the opposing seasons.

The event will finish with a stage performance and lighting of a bonfire looking out over Edinburgh.

Erin Macdonald, Beltane Fire Society’s chairwoman said: “We’re very excited to be returning to our spiritual home on Calton Hill for this year’s Samhuinn Fire Festival.

“The new venue has given us a great opportunity to think outside the box for how we tell the Samhuinn story – including how we make it very different to our Beltane event – and our volunteers have been buzzing with loads of creative ideas already.

“We’ll have everything from giant puppets through to battles and bonfires.”

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