25 ways to get into the festive spirit


See what the Queen and Princess Margaret once wore as pantomime costumes in a memorable exhibition to mark Christmas at Windsor Castle. The six outfits include an Aladdin costume and were worn during wartime when the teenage princesses helped to stage a series of Christmas pantomimes to raise money for the Royal Household Wool Fund.

Also at the castle, the State Apartments will feature magnificent Christmas trees, garlands and twinkling lights. There will be drop-in storytelling and also family-centered crafts where children can design their own pantomime costumes and make stages.

November-Jan 3; £23.50 (child £13.50); rct.uk

Walking in a winter wonderland

Santa & elf dash, Cardiff

Dress as an impish elf or pay tribute to the big man himself by donning a white beard and going full Father Christmas for this charity run. The route starts at Roald Dahl Plass in Cardiff Bay and crosses the barrage before turning back, so it is perfectly doable in an ill-fitting pair of felt trousers, though dressing up is not actually compulsory. Walkers are encouraged to participate also and spectators can even bring children, pushchairs and dogs onto the route to cheer others on. All the ticket money raised at Wales’s biggest festive fun run goes to charity.

Dec 5 at 12pm; £10; santadash.wales/home

Torch lit carols, Monmouthshire

For something gentler in the Wye Valley, carry a flaming torch (children use glow sticks) on a parade that winds its way through dark streets to the windowless medieval arches of Tintern Abbey. The roofless, 12th-century abbey’s annual carol service is always well attended and the arrival of the light-bearers creates a special atmosphere, as school choirs sing out from the gothic-style, floodlit building. The congregation having swelled, everyone then joins in singing some of the most well-known carols. The event has previously raised £5,000 for rotary charities.

Dec 4, 6-8pm; free; rotary-ribi.org

Christmas walking tour, York

Hear about the time when heathen revelry and wanton excess ruled the streets of York. A time that has nothing to do with today’s office Christmas parties but everything to do with the city’s historic mid-winter celebrations of years gone by, including the Norse Midwinter Festival, the Roman Saturnalia and the Solstice.

Blue Badge tour guide Sarah Cowling leads a 90-minute walking tour along cobbled streets, revealing why York claims to have held the first-ever Christmas celebrations and where Rudolph the reindeer got his red nose from.

November-Dec 24, daily at 4pm; £12; yorkchristmaswalkingtour.co.uk/schedule

Winter poetry walk, Gloucestershire

For a stroll that invites quiet contemplation at a time of peace, look no further than Dyrham Park, where two trails have been designed for adults. Choose between a poetry walk or one that focuses on mindfulness while exploring the 270 acres of parkland at this 17th-century country estate. The poetry trail runs through tranquil, wooded terraces, with signs providing the chance to reflect on 17th-century winter verse amid the scenery. The mindfulness trail wanders through the parks and gardens, with suggestions along the way for places to stop, connect with nature and focus on your emotions.

Daily; entry £13 (child £6.50); nationaltrust.org.uk

Deck the halls with boughs of holly

Paper and tree decorations, Shropshire

Busy your hands making simple but striking Christmas decorations that will be personal to you and will evoke memories when you get them out of the box the following year.

In Shrewsbury town centre, the Hive venue has classes showing how to make delicate winter pom-poms to string about a room and on making tree decorations that children can put together under the watchful eye of local artists. Anyone looking for a different style of decoration can sign up to create paper snow birds too, the crafting of which is like folding origami but with pleated fans and a twist.

Dec 4, 11, 18 & 19; £5; hiveonline.org.uk

Quilted stocking making, Gloucestershire

Come Christmas Eve, soft stockings that are roomy enough to be stuffed with treats are a gorgeous and – some would say – essential accessory for the fireplace. If you don’t have one that you love yet, or if you fancy giving one as a gift, the Harmony Quilt Company in Chipping Sodbury can help. Participants can bring their own festive fabric or they will be provided with some, so they can sew together stockings with guidance from experts in a bespoke quilting studio. Patterns and wadding are provided and the experience lasts for six hours.

Various dates; £75; yuup.co

Macrame wreath making, Southampton

Get on board with the recent trend of macrame and give the traditional practice of wreath making a makeover while you are at it. Classes on macrame wreath making are being held in Southampton City Art Gallery and the knotted designs, which combine with a willow wreath, will make your festive door stand out. Other workshops being held in the run-up to the big day include wire reindeer making, the decorating of hessian sacks used to hold presents and Christmas card making, whereby a set of six cards can be made using a range of mixed media and printing techniques.

Various dates; from £7; southamptoncityartgallery.com

Traditional wreath making, Bath


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