December. A month that can be defined by a variety of holiday celebrations across the world including Christmas, Hanukkah (month dependent), Yule, Yalda, and of course, New Year’s Eve. For Cheveners, it is also a break from university between terms which means, ample time to explore the UK, create new traditions, and form new friendships […]
Six ways I celebrated the holiday season: the Scotland edition
For some scholars, the holiday season is defined by staying at home with the comforts they are used to, for others, it is by travelling. For these scholars, the holiday season was defined by their decisions to spend it in Scotland!
Whether it be to partake in Hogmanay in Edinburgh, the traditional Scottish New Year’s celebration, or to hike up to beautiful places and experience the magnificence nature has to offer, Scotland has it all in abundance and many of our class of 2019 scholars were able to experience this during December. They tell you how, below.
1. MY NEW FAMILY IN THE NORTH
Risty Chrismansyah, Indonesia
‘This Christmas was the most special one for me as I celebrated it with a local family from the HOST program in Assynt, in the northwest of North Coast 500 in Scotland. Not only did I get to enjoy the festivities with my host family, but I was also introduced to Scottish tradition and the breathtaking views of the Highlands.
The day before Christmas, my host father and his son took me hiking in the woods. We returned home just in time to help my host mother who was preparing Christmas Eve dinner for their extended family. Interestingly, they adorned the dinner table using cuts of pine, holly, and ivy, and turned a log into a candle holder – everything was natural and sourced from the woods around the house.
The next day, we went to my host father’s parents’ home for Christmas lunch. It was the first time that I enjoyed a complete traditional British Christmas dinner. The day was even more remarkable as I noted how inclusive the celebration was. As a guest, I didn’t expect to get presents from their extended family and friends but I couldn’t have been more wrong!
After Christmas, my host family took me to explore the north; from visiting Achmelvich Beach, where we spotted some seals from afar, to enjoying a scenic drive around the North Coast 500. I even got to try on my host father’s kilt!
I went on this journey as a stranger and left having made a new family in the north. It was an unforgettable trip and holiday season.’
2. FROM YORK ONWARDS
Anietie Williams, Nigeria
‘I utilised the holidays to catch my breath and relax after the first term’s tiring work.
I made tourist visits to different exciting places across UK but two which excited me most were trips to Hyde Park for Winter Wonderland, and the beautiful cities of Dunkeld and Perth in Scotland for my Host UK visit.
Travelling from York to London and visiting Winter Wonderland was a really amazing experience. Getting the chance to partake in activities such as riding the observation wheel, magical ice skating, and riding roller coasters made it extremely fun.
Riding the observation wheel at 70 metres high, I could see the whole of London from the sky to admire the beautiful environment and architecture in a city that has stood for nearly 2000 years! Incredible!
In addition to these, I also got the opportunity to meet and take photographs with the ancestor of the human race. Such a pleasure was the icing on the cake!
From New Year’s Eve to 3 January, I travelled to Dunkeld and Perth in Scotland to spend time with an amazing British family. It was incredibly memorable to learn about Scottish culture and dance as well as meet great Scottish people and eat authentic Scottish food.
I was also able to visit the centuries-old Birnam Oak Tree, famous for featuring in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, as well as the beautifully flowing River River Tay which flows across Dunkeld/Perth amongst other beautiful sceneries. Aside from these, I also tried my hands on the piano at the house of my host family and refreshed my skills.
Overall, I had a very memorable and exciting holiday!’
3. LIGHTING THE WAY FOR A NEW DECADE
Edward Bermido, Philippines
‘I, along with some of my fellow Chevening Scholars from the Philippines, spent the holidays in Edinburgh to welcome the new decade in the celebrated Hogmanay Festival. It was the first time for most of us in spending the holidays away from our loved ones, but the warm friendship that we forged reminded us of family and that home is not far away.
On New Year’s Eve-eve, at the Hogmanay Festival, we joined the torch parade, with the fire representing the lighting of the way from the previous year to the next and the burning away of the old ways to make way for the new.
The next morning, we hiked to the summit of Arthur’s Seat to see the last sunrise of the decade, which was a breathtaking sight.
We welcomed the new decade in the Hogmanay Street Party where we danced, laughed, and sang while waiting for the countdown until the clock strikes in a new decade. As the fireworks illuminated Edinburgh, I looked up to the sky, feeling gratitude and being hopeful that the best is yet to come.’
4. A HIGHLANDS ADVENTURE
Dito Adisuryo, Indonesia
‘Returning to Edinburgh after visiting my high-school classmate currently living in Holmes Chapel in Chesire, my to-do lists consisted of exploring places in the Scottish Highlands with Cheveners both from my country and other countries, hosting some Cheveners, and enjoying the extraordinary atmosphere of New Year in Edinburgh.
One of the places in the Scottish Highlands my friends and I visited was Loch Lomond and the Trossach National Park, where we hiked a mountain in one part of the Loch. The wind was very Scottish, battered, and chilly. Yet, we felt that the temperature was not so low and there was no snow at all. We even climbed the mountain without outer jackets, due to some sunshine and the day’s weather.
Later, we very surprised when we found that actually the day was noted as the warmest winter in the UK, with a temperature of 16.8 C in the night time, according to Guardian and BBC. In relation to these, we have no doubt that we are currently living in the changing climate.
So, what we can do as Cheveners? Starting from ourselves, now we rarely consume meat, become more flexitarians, and have more fish. To get to the National Park, we used only trains and a connecting-bus, and added adventurous walks to it!’
5. ONE STEP AT A TIME
Cephas Ke-on Avoka, Ghana
‘I spent the New Year in Edinburgh with Dr Pacos, a Chevening Scholar from Benin. I had decided to spend the holidays up north even before I heard about the Hogmanay festival, an annual event highlighted as one of the biggest New Year’s celebrations in the world.
As I travelled five hours by train to Edinburgh, I appreciated the greenery and tranquil nature of the countryside so much.
Once there, from the pub crawls to the free walking tours I joined, I met so many amazing people from all over the world and coincidentally, someone who just returned from doing a consultancy in Ghana! I learnt so much about how the famed author J.K Rowling was inspired by the sites and scenes of Edinburgh to write the Harry Potter series.
The most spectacular part of the trip was the hike to Arthur’s Seat, a 250m hill created by volcanic activity over 300 million years ago. We climbed through the steep end of the hill and that definitely was a staircase I couldn’t get enough of. The aching limbs and panting reminded me every time that i had enough and should stop. But I remained resolute, taking one step at a time and kept motivated by the anticipated views of the city.
Eventually, we made it to the top and the views were indeed rewarding.
NB: Despite all the challenges we may face as students in the coming year, we must never forget our goal. Together we can achieve more, one step at a time.’
6. TORCHLIT PROCESSIONS
Sari Molintas, Philippines
‘In the early hours of the last day of the year, I found myself hiking up the steep, craggy surface of Arthur’s Seat with two other Filipino Chevening scholars. The night before, a larger group of us — ten scholars from the Philippines, and one from Vietnam — marched in the torchlit procession marking the start of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay. We all arrived from different areas of the UK, so it was a thrill to join something essentially Scottish. A few of us agreed to hike together in the morning, to catch the final sunrise of an incredible year.
Three of us set off on our climb the next day and though the elevation wasn’t too high, in the dark, the winding path was tricky – in some parts, the earth was slippery; in others, the rocks were jagged. I wore many layers to combat the negative temperatures, but quickly got out of breath. Halfway through the ascent, my heart was pounding from the exertion, and I considered the possibility that I wasn’t capable of making it to the summit. But through the encouragement of my companions, I found a rhythm of walking and breathing that was manageable.
Once we reached the peak, we found a spot close to the summit marker to sit. In the gripping chill, we watched as the day broke over the horizon, spilling colour back into the sleepy world, casting an orange glow over us like a spell. It filled me with the warmth of reinvigoration and gratitude.’
Thank you to all of our scholars who submitted pictures and stories to this theme.
To submit your own pictures and stories to the latest themes, please check your most recent Scholargram for submission details.
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