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Britain's greatest military performance

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Tattoo Highlights

Traditional Pipe Bands
International Performances
Auld Lang Syne
In the olden days, when wars seemed to happen every five minutes, Europe's towns were full of soldiers. Those moments when they weren't busy fighting, training or patrolling, they'd usually be found in a pub or tavern. At the end of each evening, the beer taps would be switched off, and the soldiers would have to return to their barracks. This instruction would often be transmitted via a drummer, or band.
In time, this simple custom grew and grew into one of the biggest displays by any armed force in the world. The Edinburgh Military Tattoo happens every August, before a crowd of over 200,000. Many thousands more watch via television sets across the globe. Its easy to forget it's humble beginnings. The word "tattoo" actually derives from the Dutch word "tap-toe", meaning to turn off the beer taps.
The event has been held in the grounds of Edinburgh Castle ever since it began in 1950. That year there were merely 8 items in the programme; since then it has blossomed in scale and scope. Nowadays the Tattoo takes place every weekday evening and twice on Saturdays, for most of the month of August. It's the biggest show in a city known for its live performances.

Edinburgh Military Tattoo
Photo xlibber
The size of the event may have changed drastically over the years, but its basic structure has remained the same. To begin, the Castle's great oak gates swing slowly open. From within come the pipe and drum groups, playing traditional Scottish marches with unerring precision.
A little later the full bands enter the scene, with their brass and woodwind instruments. They're followed by a more free form, international section that features an increasingly adventurous selection of performers. Groups are invited from all over the world to take part. Past Tattoos have included battle re-enactments and motorcycle stunt teams!
For the grand finale, all the different bands and groups gather together. There can be up to 1000 people performing at once. Everything builds up to the final song of the lone piper, who plays his sad notes from the Castle ramparts. As he finishes, fireworks explode in the night sky, and the crowd join in with a rendition of Auld Lang Syne.
The Tattoo makes a strong impression on anyone who sees it. Since 1950, the total number of attendees is now somewhere above 12 million. This includes audiences from abroad, as the show has toured in such far-flung countries as New Zealand and Australia. From 2010, it will be known as the "Royal" Edinburgh Military Tattoo. This title was awarded by Her Majesty the Queen, in honour of the event's 60th anniversary.
Visitor Information
The Edinburgh Military Tattoo is held every August.

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