At midnight, eight flambeaux or fiery torches begin their procession around the village before being ceremoniously thrown in the River Earn.As the 'Bells' approach and the Old Year ends, the picturesque village of Comrie, at the heart of Scotland, hundreds of people gather in Melville Square to take part in one of the country's oldest festivals.
As far back as anyone can remember the village has been home to the Flambeaux Procession, every Hogmanay a, fiery spectacular accompanied by music, fancy dress parades and general all round merry-making. The parade and festival includes everything you could expect from a summer festival. You'll see craft vendors, custom t-shirts, games, music, food and more.
Although no-one is absolutely sure when or how the festival began and lots of different myths abound, the most widely accepted theory is that it is pagan in origin. It was all about driving out the evil spirits of the Old Year from the extremities of the village and welcoming in the New Year. In olden days it is said that stags heads were also carried through the village. It is a unique event, though there are other fire festivals in Scotland, there are none quite like this one.
The preparations for the festival begin long before the festive period. The torches are made from saplings wrapped in hessian bags, usually old 'tattie' bags, on the first Sunday after Armistice Sunday. They aresoaked in a drum of paraffin for six weeks then removed on Hogmanay.
The evening's festivities begin with a children's fancy dress parade. As the last minutes of the Old Year tick away, villagers and visitors gather in the square, when, on the stroke of midnight the torches are lit. Comrie Pipe Band and the villagers dressed in fancy costumes follow the torchlight procession. After working its way around the village the procession returns to the square where the flambeaux, often more than ten feet high, are put down while the adults' fancy dress parade is held. Once the judging is complete the flambeaux are then picked up again and carried across the square to Dalginross Bridge where they are thrown into the River Earn.
The atmosphere is intense, with visitors coming from all over the place to watch it. Others who have left Comrie to work elsewhere also come home for the holidays and to watch the procession.
Comrie is situated seven miles west of Crieff in Perthshire and is probably best known for its flowers and its status as the most earthquake prone place in Britain! The latter is due to its location on the Highland Boundary Fault line while the former is thanks to the village's success in winning the Britain in Bloom award for best large village in Britain.
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