In December 2023 I took a series of tour groups around key sites in Edinburgh’s surprisingly bright history of festive protest.
Our first stop was St. Andrews Square where we celebrated Occupy Edinburgh’s taking of Scotland’s historic financial centre in the winter of 2021, a protest which included, on Christmas Day 2011, the raising of the jolly roger over the head branch of then Europe’s biggest bank, RBS.
At the Scottish National Gallery we recalled the efforts of arts activists to oppose big oil, culminating in the eviction of protesting carollers in 2019.
A magnificent spruce tree sits atop the Mound and we gathered under it to hear the story of how the very first tree placed on this spot, a gift from the St. Andrews Society of Denmark, commemorated the theft of two Christmas trees from the nazi-occupied Royal Palace in Oslo.
You can read about how the trees found their way to the UK and Scotland’s part in supporting the Norweigan resistance in these articles:
Outside the Church of Scotland General Assembly Hall we heard how Christmas was banned in Scotland in the 17th century, with people punished for dancing, singing carols and baking mince pies!
This story is well recorded in these excellent blogs:
Down Johnston Terrace under the shadow of the Castle we arrived at the Lyceum Theatre, where we heard about the efforts of people in Edinburgh, and around the world, to support the families of striking miners in Christmas 1984, and how the miners’ wives of Midlothian organised coach trips to Edinburgh’s pantomimes.
Miners’ families celebrating Christmas, Edinburgh Evening News, December 1984:
We completed our tour across Lothian road at the Statue ‘Woman and Child’, raised in 1986 in solidarity with the ongoing struggle against apartheid in South Africa. We heard about the thousands of people who, in the run up to Christmas 1969, protested and took direct action to stop the South African rugby tour in Scotland, and how the struggle to oppose apartheid elsewhere in the world continued to today.
The walking tour raised over £400 for Medical Aid for Palestinians and I’d encourage you to donate to them at this urgent time if you are able.
I hope to publish more on these stories in the future.
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