'Tis the season to be jolly, so let's get down to business. Just for a moment, forget all talk of austerity and think only happy thoughts – the kids will love you for it. As if to compensate for all the bad stuff, this year there are more ways than ever to keep them feeling truly hysterical throughout the festive season.
For a start, Father Christmas is working overtime – and he's popping up in the oddest of places. No longer content to sit in a corner of your local department store, Santa has gone and got himself a life. You can now find him scuba diving in Cheshire (blueplanet aquarium.com), where he's braving shark-infested waters to deliver his gifts; cruising on Windermere (winder mere-lakecruises.co.uk); and hitting the snowy slopes of Hemel Hempstead (thesnowcentre.com). In London, he appears to have morphed into a penguin and renamed himself Father Fishmas (visitsealife.com).
But the trip my children are most excited about is the Father Christmas rib ride. Take the family whizzing down the Thames at 35 knots, accompanied by Santa's little helpers, festive tales, and carols serenading you all the way. The Jingle Bell Blast departs today from the London Eye. You'll have to get your skates on – all other dates are sold out (020-7928 8933; londonribvoyages.com;£32.50 for adults, £19.50 for children).
For those who prefer their kids to have a more authentic Christmas experience, why not treat them to an overnight stay in a stable? This year, Bethlehem has come to Brighton, where you can now book your very own "stable-cation". Accommodation comes complete with shepherds' outfits, a straw bed, a manger, and a resident donkey – and the owners have added a touch of mood lighting, heating and Wi-Fi just to keep you comfortable. What's more, a stay here helps to raise money for leukaemia and lymphoma research. See home-renting website wimdu.co.uk for details. Stays cost £12 per night.
If this has made you come over all "bah, humbug", then I have just the thing: a family day out at an alternative Christmas venue. The London Dungeon is running a Satan's grotto, where you can sing along to alternative Christmas carols (020-7403 7221; thedungeons.com; £14.50 for adults, £10.95 for children). Meanwhile, Ebenezer Scrooge is taking up residence from 27 December to 1 January at the Museum of London Docklands (020-7001 9844; museumin docklands.org.uk; free admission). You and your brood can exchange moans and groans with the biggest Christmas grump of them all – and it costs just £5 to meet him.