It seems as though autumn has barely started and suddenly the ‘C’ word is on everyone’s lips. But if you’re looking for something other than the usual seasonal markets to get you into the festive spirit, then our pick of quirky Christmas events may help!
Unusual ways to celebrate Christmas when you’re out and about
Gingerbread houses are synonymous with Christmastime, but why settle for one when you can enjoy a whole city? The Gingerbread City returns to London this winter, recreating some of our favourite architecture in biscuit form. This year’s event has a rewilding and biodiversity theme, so expect Willy Wonka Wetlands, an All Sorts Allotment and Honeycomb Meadows. You can visit it from 4th December 2021 to 9th January 2022 and there are daily gingerbread house-making workshops to take part in too. Book your tickets here!
Fancy a bit of seasonal nostalgia? You can experience Christmas Past at the Museum of the Home. It’s not all tinsel and turkey though as you can venture back as far as the 1600s when pagan midwinter celebrations were all the rage. The museum is hosting a full-on Winter Festival this year too, with events including a light installation and a Gingerbread House Brooch workshop with Tatty Devine. General admission is free, but you’ll need to book yourself a ticket.
Similarly, Bournemouth’s Russell-Cotes Museum will be full of festive tradition this December with a candlelit late opening on 15th and A Victorian Christmas Weekend on 18th and 19th. Expect Christmas music, family-friendly activities and an insight into festive traditions. Russell-Cotes is a house, gallery and garden overlooking the sea. It boasts a beautiful Victorian interior and galleries filled with art; and it looks even better dressed in its festive attire.
Also this December, Burning the Clocks returns to Brighton, celebrating the shortest day of the year. This wonderful winter festival is free to attend but they do need donations to help keep it running, so dig deep. Expect more than just a lantern parade though as performers and arty lit sculptures make their way through the city to the beach where the lanterns are symbolically burnt and a fire show lights the sky. This event does get busy, so get there early and try to be considerate to others.
And if that’s just too conventional for you, Chester’s dark and daring spectacle may be more to your liking. The Winter Watch Parade is led by some colourful characters including The Lord of Misrule, devils and the Tree of Life. There’s a whole host of performances, a costumed samba band and lots of revellry as this quirky parade makes its way through the city. It takes place on 9th and 16th December.
It’s not the only slightly scary parade you can catch this festive season. Whitby’s Krampus Run returns to the streets this December too. This noisy and colourful costumed parade is a take on the Alpine tradition of Krampus. It features the horned Krampus, The Black Dog, St Niklaus and Whitby Wyrms (aka dragons). There’ll be drumming and a fire dance to liven up proceedings on the 4th. It’s free to head along, but again, do be considerate of others and pick a spot along the route that isn’t too crowded.
Quirky seasonal shows to get you in the festive spirit
Christmas shows tend to mean cheesy panto, but if you fancy something a bit more off the wall, we’ve got some wonderfully quirky ideas for you to try.
We start with a Christmas classic in an unusual setting for our pick of festive shows. Greenwich’s Old Royal Naval College is putting on a performance of A Christmas Carol. This show takes place in the magnificent Painted Hall, known as Britain’s Sistine Chapel, for a unique telling of this spooky tale. It’ll be fast-paced and funny with live songs to bring the story to life. You can catch it from 3rd to 23rd December and it is family-friendly.
It’s not your usual Christmas sentiment, but Santa Must Die! is our next suggestion for an alternative festive show. It’s a raucous new gig-theatre show for the gig economy. For the characters in this story, Christmas is all work and no play. Created with input from people in Bradford and Newcastle who’ve experienced zero hours contracts at Christmas, it’s a tale that’s true for many. And it’ll suit audiences who like their theatre with a bit of bite. You can catch it from 16th December at Newcastle upon Tyne’s Alphabetti Theatre and tickets are Pay What You Feel.
With Backyard Cinema’s Christmas Movie Spectacular at London’s art deco Troxy, you can choose from Elf, Love Actually or Home Alone. As well as viewing these festive films on the big screen, you’ll also get to enjoy music from a live choir and an original story read by award-winning wordsmith George the poet.
A trio of alternative Christmas cabaret shows
From 16th December, right through to the beginning of January, cabaret and circus stars will be bringing their festive sparkle to Woolwich Works. Shotgun Carousel’s Christmas extravaganza, The Grotteaux, will include illusions, neo-burlesque, comedy and drag performances galore. Tickets for the shows cost from £15.50 and are suitable for ages 16 and over.
If drag, burlesque and circus is your thing, then there are more alternative Christmas performances to enjoy with XXXmas Carol in Cardiff. This eccentric twist on Dickens’ festive classic, is on at the Wolfson Studio at Wales Millennium Centre from 8th to 30th December and tickets are priced from £12. Expect a fun mix of aerialists, belly dancers and more from this raucous anti-panto.
And also on the cabaret front is Dog Show at London’s Pleasance theatre. This late-night canine cabaret cocks its leg at the fetishisation of queer bodies and queer culture with sketches, skits and songs. So expect everything from lip-syncing drag, comedy and burlesque, to breakdancing, rap and spoken word. Tickets are priced from £12 for performances and it runs until 19th December.
Something different for the kids to enjoy
If you’re looking for a quirky Christmas show that’s family-friendly, then try Cinderella: the AWESOME truth. It’s a madcap, modern take on the classic tale. Inspired by conversations with children and scientists about the fairy story and healthy body image, it promises to be a fun and refreshing production. You can expect a feel-good songbook by the award-winning composer Felix Hagan in this topsy-turvy adventure. It’s on at Wimbledon’s Polka Theatre until the end of January 2022 and tickets cost from £10.
Rescue the elves with a Christmas Quest around Norwich. The adventure is suitable for families with children aged 7 and up. It’s a self-guided, outdoor activity. So, you can do it when it suits you and it costs £9.99 to take part.
Ride an illuminated steam train on the Watercress Line in Alresford, Hampshire and spot the light installations along the way. You’ll get an LED wristband on admission to the event, which you can take home afterwards. It’s something a little bit different to the usual Christmas displays!