Christmas spirit doesn’t have to be about consumerism. For me it’s all about finding ways to embrace the cold winter months and spend as much time as possible with my friends and family. Here are 13 things I do each year to celebrate Christmas in London.
Christmas in London
1) Carols by Candlelight
Union Chapel in Islington is a working church, live music venue and home to The Margins Project for London’s homeless. Each year the not-for-profit space hold a free Carols by Candlelight event that’s the highlight of my Christmas in London. Think classic carols, silly tunes and festive thoughts – with a side of mulled wine and mince pies.
2) Create your own Christmas Eve rituals
I think it’s because I’ve never celebrated Christmas Day that I’m obsessed with Christmas Eve rituals. I just find them fascinating! I love that rituals have been passed down through generations and that new families create their own special ones too (here’s a Christmas Eve ritual that I love).
3) Ice skating
Since breaking my leg I don’t take any chances, so you won’t catch me on the ice this year! However if you feel like taking the risk there are lots of places to go ice skating in London this Christmas. My favourite places to ice skate are at the Tower of London and on Hampstead Heath – although the view from the Natural History rink looks rather special too.
4) Christmas cocktails
I love a mug of mulled wine as much as everyone else but it’s good to mix it up every now and then… Fancy making your own Christmas cocktail? Try this apple pie cocktail recipe that’s guaranteed to warm you up on a cold day.
5) Cologne Christmas markets
Sometimes the best way to celebrate Christmas is to leave London! This year I went to the Cologne Christmas markets for the first time and they were wonderful. The atmosphere is relaxed, friendly and festive and there’s lots to see and do. Unlike Winter Wonderland in London, all the Christmas markets in Cologne sell reasonably priced mulled wine (3 Euros a mug) and excellent street food that will leave you with change from a fiver.
6) Go to the ballet
A few years ago my friend Emily arranged for us all to go to the ballet before Christmas. Not only was The Nutcracker at the London Coliseum a truly festive extravaganza, but it was also the perfect excuse to see your closest friends right before the big day. If you’re not afraid of heights, the seats at the top will set you back just £10-£15 – not bad when you consider tickets to see a popstar cost ten times that amount.
7) Take a walk through London streets
When everyone else is panicking in Oxford Street the weekend before Christmas, wrap up warm, grab your camera and take a long walk through your favourite London streets. That’s what I did in Bloomsbury a few years ago, before spending the rest of the afternoon at the British Museum. A pretty perfect day out.
8) Farewell to Christmas at the Geffrye Museum
Visit the Geffrye Museum on 6 January for their traditional burning of the holly and the ivy. I went in 2013 and loved every second. They’ll be carol singing, mulled wine and Twelfth Night cake outside in their beautiful garden – it’s not to be missed.
If you can’t wait to visit Hoxton, the Geffrye Museum can will still meet your festive needs in December with their 400 Years of Seasonal Traditions in English Homes exhibition.
9) Go to the theatre
My entire family love Elf, so when we heard they were turning it into a musical this Christmas we had to get tickets. We dressed up in our finest Christmas sweaters, donned novelty head ware and settled down for an evening of laughter at the Dominion Theatre.
Crisis at Christmas always need volunteers. Whether you have a specialist skill like hairdressing or just want to make sure the homeless are warm and fed this winter, Crisis need you. More information here.
11) Get crafty
Search Pinterest for Christmas craft ideas or attend a workshop in London to try making something new. The Wallace Collection has a couple of sessions that look good – the glass painting one looks particularly interesting.
12) Visit Trafalgar Square
One of these years I’m going to do what I’ve always said I’ve wanted to – visit Trafalgar Square on Christmas morning. I presume it’s super quiet and it must be magical to visit somewhere that’s usually swimming with people. Alternatively visit sometime before Christmas to see the tree and enjoy one of the many free carol concerts taking place in the run up to the 25th.
13) Visit the Charles Dickens Museum
Nothing screams Christmas in London louder than Charles Dickens. Take a journey through Christmas Past and see for yourself how Christmas was celebrated in Victorian times.
How do you celebrate Christmas in London?