the chilly winter air is so much easier to face when there is a something special to go out for and London is never short of fabulous winter warming distractions and attractions. Yes, the days are shorter and the nights are longer. Yes, it’s colder and yes, it can be an expensive time of year, but there is still something very magical in the air at this extreme time of year.
Pull on your favourite woolly hat and start with a warm cup of hot chocolate gripped between your mittens – prepare for a season of comforting food and celebrating getting through yet another winter.
The week before Christmas the Southbank Centre Food Market always puts on a great party. It’s free to wander round and sample world foods and has views of London across the Thames that are unrivalled. As part of the wider Winter Festival on the Southbank that runs for the whole season there is even a formal masquerade ball on 18 December.
Families are spoilt for choice; head across the river to Hyde Park and the Winter Wonderland for circus shows, an ice rink and a Magical Ice Kingdom, it will be harder to find a better Frozen landscape anywhere near the capital.
In most of Europe, particularly the northern areas, Christmas markets and winter festivals are extremely popular cultural events, and what is particularly interesting is how all of the tradition and cultural significance of the season derives from a singular astrological event: the winter solstice.
Pagan Scandinavian and Germanic people celebrated a twelve-day ‘midwinter’ holiday during the solstice called Yule (as well as many other names). Tracing this celebration through time shows us where we get many of our more modern Christmas traditions, such as the Christmas tree and the big feast. Although traditions evolve and change over time, the one thing that is constant is celebration.
Winter celebrations Russian-style return to the Southbank Centre too. The award-winning Slava’s SnowShow is packed with clowns, music, drama and laughs for all ages. Tickets sell out quickly so if you missed it last year it is worth getting online and booking straight away.
So in the build up to this Christmas, ‘Celebration’ is the word, and where better to celebrate at any one of London’s fantastic winter festivals. Once you have finished your mulled wine and warm Germanic treats at the market, why not take the family to enjoy one of our other treasured Christmas traditions: the pantomime.
The classic pantomime Cinderella is on in Richmond, Hammersmith and Edmonton this year, while Jack and the Beanstalk is on in East London and Peter Pan is playing in Wimbledon. A modern classic, The Snowman, is on at Holborn – a treat to melt the coldest of hearts.
Probably this year’s pièce de résistance in London will be Jim Broadbent in A Christmas Carol at the Noel Coward Theatre, St Martin’s Lane. A story with relentless seasonal appeal, complex moral truths, drama and sheer thrill in the hands of one of the country’s best actors is destined to entertain (and sell out).
So wrap up, celebrate, and above all, have a merry Christmas!
CHRISTMAS MARKETS & WINTER FESTIVALS
Hyde Park – W2 2UH – 20/11/15–03/01/16
Pop into the Magical Ice Kingdom for an awe-inspiring walk through a fantastical world of real ice and snow or head to the Megadome to see Zippo’s Christmas Circus or, for a more adrenaline packed show, see Cirque Berserk.
Winter at Southbank Centre
Southbank Centre – SE1 8XX – 27/10/15–17/01/16
Southbank Centre’s magical winter season returns with award-winning entertainment for all ages, pathways of twinkling lights, bustling riverside markets offering food, drinks and gift ideas, as well as their famous Vintage New Year’s Eve Party.
Christmas @ Borough Market
Southwark Street – SE1 1TL – 09/12/15–02/01/16
Borough Market, one of the best food markets around, becomes an extra special place at Christmas time.
Hyper Japan Christmas Market
Tobacco Dock – E1W 2SF – 27/11/15–29/11/15
Celebrate Japanese food and culture in this truly unique winter festival from the land of the rising sun.
Victoria Park, Bow – E9 7DD – 26/11/15–23/12/15
Victoria Park will host plenty of christmassy attractions again this year including pantomime action with Snow White and her seven dwarves, a 600 square metre ice rink and their very own dazzling circus.
Greenwich Market at Christmas
Greenwich High Road – SE10 9HZ – 25/11/15–24/12/15
Discover London’s only historic market set within a World Heritage site. Surrounded by independent and boutique shops and a well established designer-maker trend means you are sure to find something different.
PANTOMINE & CHRISTMAS THEATRE LISTINGS
Jack and the Beanstalk
21/11/15 – 03/01/16
Hackney Empire, Mare Street, E8 1EJ, 020 8985 2424
Starring Olivier Award winning Clive Rowe, the classic tale of a boy who sells his cow to buy seemingly useless magic beans comes to Hackney Empire. Tickets £10-£34.50
05/12/15 – 23/01/16
Theatre Royal Stratford East, Gerry Raffles Square, E15 1BN, 020 8534 0310
The prince of thieves is on a mission to steal from the rich, feed the poor and save the good King Richard from the evil plot of Prince John. Tickets £17-£27.50
04/12/15 – 10/01/16
Richmond Theatre, Little Green, TW9 1QJ, 0844 871 7651
BAFTA Winning actress Hayley Mills makes her panto debut alongside Matthew Kelly in this rags-to-riches story. Tickets £11.90-£51.40
21/11/15 – 03/01/16
Lyric Hammersmith, King Street, W6 0QL, 020 8741 6850
Plenty of colourful characters and festive fun in true Lyric style at Hammersmith’s version of the classic tale. Tickets £15-£35
05/12/15 – 10/01/16
New Wimbledon Theatre, The Broadway, SW19 1QG, 020 8545 7900
Peter Pan and Wendy take on the villainous Captain Hook in the ultimate family adventure. The ‘home of London pantomime’ always promises a stellar cast. Tickets £11.90-£40.40
03/12/15 – 02/01/16
Park Theatre, Finsbury Park, N4 3JP, 020 7870 6876
The King and Queen of Püss Püss agree to give up their baby to a witch in order to save the life of the expectant mother. Tickets £18-£25
Elf The Musical
24/10/15 – 02/01/16
Dominion Theatre, Tottenham Court Rd, W1T 7AQ , 0845 200 7982
Based on the 2003 hit film starring Will Ferrell, Elf tells the hilarious tale of an orphan child who returns to New York City after growing up in the North Pole
25/11/15 – 03/01/16
The Peacock Theatre, Holborn, WC2A 2HT, 020 7863 8222
The Snowman continues to transport children and their families into the wintery world of a boy and his magical snowman, with music and lyrics by Howard Blake. Tickets £15-£35
27/11/15 – 03/01/16
The Churchill Theatre, Bromley, BR1 1HA, 0844 871 7620
Eastenders actor Scott Maslin and the legendary Bobby Crush star in the story of a boy and his magic lamp. Tickets £10-£27
Around the World in 80 Days
26/11/15 – 17/01/16
St. James Theatre, Palace Street, SW1E 5JA, 0844 264 2140
The mysterious Phileas Fogg wagers his fortune that he can circumnavigate the globe in just 80 days. Tickets £15-£35
A Christmas Carol
30/11/15 – 30/01/16
Noël Coward Theatre, St. Martin’s Lane, WC2N 4AU, 0844 482 5141
Jim Broadbent stars as Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ classic tale of greed, ghosts and redemption. Tickets £12.25-£62.25
17/12/15 – 05/01/16
Royal Festival Hall, Southbank, SE1 8XX, 0844 847 9910
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