Top 10 traditional Christmas events

01 December 2016

From beautiful Christmas lights to winter markets full of gifts to enchanted forests, here are some of Britain’s best festive activities.

1. The Reindeer Centre

Near Ashford, Kent

See farm animals, reptiles, Father Christmas in an animated grotto and more than 100 reindeer. You can even hire one, complete with handler, if you want. 

Santa’s grotto open from Nov 12 – Dec 24.

2. Longleat Festival of Light

Near Warminster, Wiltshire

It may be more a Far East custom that British, but Longleat celebrates Christmas with an enormous display of Chinese lanterns in the safari-park grounds, along with terracotta army warriors, and a huge dragon boat floating on the lake. More traditionally, there’s also a Santa train, a giant musical Christmas tree, real-life fairy-tale characters and an outdoor ice skating rink. This year, Longleat is celebrating its safari park's 50th birthday with a Beatrix Potter exhibition and Peter Rabbit-themed lanterns.

Nov 11- Jan 2.

3. Christmas outdoor swims


Great if you want to burn off that extra helping of Christmas pudding. There are numerous events, many on Christmas Day – from a dip in the Serpentine boating lake, London, to braving the waters of the Firth of Forth in Scotland. Dozens of hardy participants take the plunge at each event, often in festive costume.

4. Mousehole Christmas Lights


Some 7,000 lights adorn the small Cornish fishing village. In the past, there’s been a sea serpent, a whale and a giant Christmas stocking. After seeing the lights, it’s traditional to eat a Stargazy Pie in a local pub. Fishes heads poke through the pastry in honour of an old fisherman, who, legend has it, braved a huge storm to bring in his catch and save the starving village.

Dec 18 – Jan 7

5. Chester Christmas Market

You don’t have to go to Germany to find a decent festive fair. The UK has plenty and Chester is one of the best. Last year, 70 stalls situated by the city’s historical town hall and cathedral sold numerous gifts and traditional Christmas food and wine.

November 18 - December 18.

6. Sail with Santa, River Exe, Devon

An hour-long boat trip in the company of Father Christmas, with face painting, balloon modelling, boat-driving lesson, mulled wine and mince pies. The boat is covered, just in case it snows.

December 10-18

7. Christmas Past, 400 years of Seasonal Traditions in English Houses exhibition  

The Geffrye Museum of the Home, London

A series of rooms will recreate what English homes looked like at Christmas down the ages. Find out why we put up stockings, send cards and kiss under the mistletoe.

November 22 – January 8.

8. Illuminated Enchanted Forest

Stockfield Park, North Yorkshire

Walk a trail almost a mile long and see a variety of illuminated animals, magical creatures and mysterious characters. There is also a spectacularly lit lake in the middle of the forest and an ice rink.

Open now until January 3.

9. Royal Welsh Agricultural Society Winter Fair

Llanelwedd, Powys

One for the farmer in you. Leading stockmen from all over the UK pit their livestock against each other for prestigious accolades. Welsh food producers also showcase their produce, with hundreds of trade stands, demonstrations and exhibitions.

November 28-29 

10. Christmas Tree Festival

St John’s Church, Stamford

Thirty Christmas trees, decorated by local businesses and charity groups, adorn this charming 15th century church, which has a roof carved with green men and painted angels.

November 25 – December 11 or visit the Christmas Tree Festival's Facebook page

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