As Americans, we’re used to seeing the word “tattoo” and thinking about getting a permanent artwork on our bodies!
But, in Scotland, the Tattoo has an alternate – and fascinating – meaning. The Tattoo is an iconic Edinburgh institution, a cultural and historical performance that sells out year after year after year. Music, dance and precision are on display with the Massed Pipes and Drums, the Massed Military Bands, cultural troupes, singers and the poignant refrain of the Lone Piper, all against the stunning backdrop of Edinburgh Castle.
Even if you’ve seen it before, it’s worth seeing again. Each and every Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is different from the last. The Tattoo embraces different themes; nature, creativity and Scotland’s homecoming are just some of the concepts explored in recent times. They are performed by British Armed Forces, Commonwealth and International military bands, and is truly a spectacular and unique event.
Where did the tradition originate? Historically, the music of the “Tattoo” acted as a signal to local tavern owners to turn off their taps so that the soldiers would retire to bed at a reasonable hour. In the 18th century, when barracks became the norm, the term was used to describe ceremonial evening performances by Military musicians.
However, the first official Edinburgh Military Tattoo occurred in 1950. Though it had only eight performances, 6,000 people came to view the spectacle, seated on simple benches all around the Edinburgh Castle esplanade. The Tattoo performance has evolved and grown and now continues throughout the month of August, every weekday evening and twice on Saturdays. On the second Saturday, there is even a fireworks display with a light show on the façade of the Castle. And if you’re traveling, not to worry – it has never been cancelled due to weather!