'Tis the season: Christmas activities

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, with festive activities taking place up and down the country. Lucy Gillmore gets into the spirit

What's the attraction?

This year there's a festive feast of Christmas markets, open-air ice rinks and yuletide events. At Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland, 20 sculptors have created a Magical Ice Kingdom from over 200 tons of ice and snow (until 6 January; hydeparkwinterwonderland.com). It is also the 200th anniversary of the birth of A Christmas Carol author Charles Dickens in Portsmouth and the Historic Dockyard is joining in the celebrations with its Victorian Festival of Christmas from this Friday to Sunday (0844 880 5419; christmasfestival.co.uk). Sup frothy eggnog in Fagin's Tavern before wandering the snowy streets.

Rocking Around the Christmas Trees

At Thetford Forest in Suffolk, the Electric Forest (left) is a night-time adventure taking visitors on a journey through the darkness, emerging from the trees to discover illuminated landscapes and visual art and sound installations. There are also cosy spot where you can eat, drink and soak up the atmosphere of the forest at night (1, 2, 6-9 and 13-16 December; 01665 833751; theelectricforest.co.uk). And Alnwick Garden, is hosting the Northumberland Lights winter festival. Visitors wander the spectacularly illuminated Ornamental Garden (18-23 and 26-30 December; 01665 511350; www.alnwickgarden.com/festivaloffools).

All the trimmings

At the School of Wok (020 7240 8818; schoolofwok.co.uk) a new Oriental cookery school in Covent Garden, there's the opportunity to join two-hour "Wok around the Christmas tree" lessons to spice up your Christmas dinner (£95; 14 and 21 December). Think Christmas parcel crispy wontons, roast poussin with lemongrass stuffing, festive fried rice and five-spice chocolate fondant. Further east, at London's ExCel Centre, Taste of Christmas (6-9 December; tasteofchristmas.com) brings together top chefs including Jamie Oliver, Mary Berry and Michel Roux Jnr, alongside food stalls, master classes and inspiration at the Festive Flavours of the World showcase.

Homemade Christmas

For Christmas without the bling head to the WWT Wetland Centre in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire (01554 741087; wwt.org.uk/christmas) where there are wreath-making workshops on 8 and 9 December using materials gathered in the wetlands. At Brockholes nature reserve in Lancashire, the UK's only floating visitor centre, the Christmas Festival on 22 and 23 December includes a Christmas Trail around the reserve and the chance to make your own Christmas cards, decorations and wreaths with natural materials (bottom right) before meeting Father Christmas and his reindeer (01772 872 000; brockholes.org).

Ghosts of Christmas Past

In Chester on 20 December the city celebrates its Roman heritage with an atmospheric torch-lit procession of Roman soldiers through the historic streets to mark the traditional Roman winter festival of Saturnalia (visitchester.com/christmas). In Conwy on 7 December there will be a procession of medieval knights through the town led by a jester, followed by knights in armour and their ladies carrying blazing torches. There will also be a hog roast and late-night shopping (gonorthwales.co.uk). Christmas was banned in Scotland in 1575 and not officially celebrated until 1958. At the Real Mary King's Close, beneath Edinburgh's Royal Mile, A Christmas at the Close Tour explains the capital's historic seasonal traditions, such as the mischief making of the "daft days" from Christmas Eve until Twelfth Night (0845 070 6244; realmarykingsclose.com). A Victorian Christmas at Gawthorpe Hall in Lancashire (01282 771004; nationaltrust.org.uk/gawthorpe-hall) takes place on 15 and 16 December. Visitors can check out the dining room decked out for a typical Victorian Christmas.

Who said that?

"Christmas isn't just a day, it's a frame of mind," – Kris Kringle in the 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street

"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year." – Charles Dickens

"One can never have enough socks," said Dumbledore. "Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn't get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books." – J K Rowling Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Shop till you drop

New Christmas markets include Exeter (until 16 December; heartofdevon.com/whats-on), in front of the cathedral; and Salisbury (29 November to 16 December), where wooden chalets will huddle around the 18th-century Guildhall Square (visitwiltshire.co.uk). A new addition in Brighton is the German Christmas Market outside the Churchill Shopping Centre (visitbrighton.com), or for an alternative shopping experience, you can nose around 100 local artists' houses during Christmas Artists Open Houses (1, 2, 8, 9, 15 and 16 December; aoh.org.uk).

Get your skates on

Today, Cornwall's first open-air ice rink opens in Truro beside the cathedral (until 6 January; 01872 262466; iceskatetruro.co.uk), while in Bath (left) you can also whirl around against the backdrop of the Georgian Royal Crescent (until 6 January; 07583 258688; bathonice.com). In Brighton, Jamie Oliver's Fabulous Feasts is this year's pop-up restaurant at the Royal Pavilion ice rink (until 20 January; royalpavilionicerink.co.uk). And at Somerset House in London, the ice rink goes up tempo with club nights: tonight until Friday it's the Vintage Festival, followed by the Ministry of Sound and Ibiza Rocks (until 4 January; somersethouse.org.uk/ice-rink).

insider information

"At York's Chocolate Story we're inviting people to get into the spirit of overindulgence with some special yuletide demonstrations. Having said 'bah humbug' to boring selection boxes and tins of toffees, those who come to our chocolate visitor attraction in December will be shown how to make eggnog, winter spice and plum pudding". Andrew Thwaite, Head Chocolatier at York's Chocolate Story (0845 498 9411; yorkschocolatestory.com).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Recruitment Genius: Centre Manager

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Guru Careers: Accountant

    £28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Assistant Manager

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hotel in Chadderton is a p...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before