The Samhuinn Fire Festival 2019

Tonight, thousands of spectators will flock to Calton Hill for a spectacular display with an otherworldly atmosphere.

A modern celebration of the Celtic New Year, the Samhuinn Fire Festival is an annual event taking place on the 31st of October of each year.

On the night, performers  will act out a dramatic battle between the Winter and Summer Kings and their respective forces, a romantic representation of the changing of the seasons. The battle is acted out by an array of talented singers, drummers, actors, acrobats and fire performers.

A fire dancer mid-way through the performance: Copyright Vince Graham for Beltane Fire Society. All Rights Reserved. www.beltane.org / www.facebook.com/beltanefiresociety

The Edinburgh-based event is actually influenced by the Gaelic celebration called ‘Samhain’.

Samhain marks the end of the traditional harvest season and the beginning of winter and darker nights. It is unique in that it is celebrated from the setting of the sun on the 31st of October to the setting of the sun on the 1st of November. This is known as a ‘quarter-day celebration’.

While the festival has been observed in other countries, Samhain is most commonly celebrated widely throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.

The Samhuinn Fire Festival was founded by the Beltane Fire Society (BFS) in 1995.

Becca Inglis, a BFS representative gave a little background on why the Samhuinn Fire Festival was created: “The founders were looking for a way to highlight the importance of ritual, celebration, and coming together in public.”

24 years on and the Samhuinn Fire Festival is thriving and gaining more attention with each coming year. Last year (2018) approximately 3,500 people were in attendance atop Calton Hill for Samhuinn.

This marked the first time that the festival was held as a ticketed event and it sold out very quickly.

According to Becca Inglis, a much larger audience is expected tonight: “We’re expecting a sellout event of 7,500, which is very exciting! It’s nearly double what we had last year. It’s fantastic to see so many people getting excited about the festival.”

With a larger audience in attendance this year, the BFS have gone to some lengths to captivate and enchant first-time participants as well as surprise and enthral long-time fans.

“Our audience will be used to the single procession that makes its way around Beltane Fire Festival, and at this year’s Samhuinn we have three! People will be able to follow the Winter King and Summer King as they journey around the hill, and then they’ll all meet in a big cacophony of drums and fire halfway through the night.”

Costumed participants enact the battle between winter and summer – Copyright Neil Barton for Beltane Fire Society. All Rights Reserved. www.beltane.org / www.facebook.com/beltanefiresociety

“There’s also a big emphasis on Autumn this year, and a nod to climate change – our kings will wake up to a confusing planet where they can’t tell which season it is, so instead of starting as enemies they will seek comfort and friendship in each other.”

The 2019 Samhuinn Fire Festival will take place tonight (October 31st) on Calton Hill. Gates open at 7pm and the event is expected to finish at around midnight. Tickets are £10 on the door and anyone is welcome to come along and partake in the festivities.

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