Put some Ho, Ho, Ho! into the season with some of these fabulously festive ideas in Norfolk…
Christmas Lights Switch-On, Markets and Lantern Parades
Although the big build up to Christmas Day starts from the autumn, the real fun begins when towns, villages and cities switch-on their Christmas lights and host festive events.
Many mark the occasion with lantern parades, music from brass bands and dress the streets in bright illuminations, and some places hold themed Christmas markets following traditions of days gone-by.
PTA Christmas Fayres and School Nativities
Schools are incredibly busy places in the run up to Christmas, with many PTA’s holding Christmas fayres, which are huge money-raisers for the schools – for extra Christmas Fair ideas for your PTA event see www.ptasocial.com/christmas-fair-ideas.
Whilst for many parents, one of the best bits about Christmas, that is the most heart-warming of all, is watching the brilliant school performances or nativity plays and listening to the children sing. Don’t miss it!
Reduce, reuse and upcycle your Christmas waste this festive season…
Have a go at getting the kids involved by making some DIY Christmas decorations. Cut out snowflakes to stick on the windows, stick cloves into oranges and bake until dry, and pick some holly and ivy to make table decorations and wreaths.
This can be a fantastic way to reduce your waste and costs, while having fun with the kids too.
As a nation, we use 83 square miles worth of gift wrap every festive season, but this doesn’t mean it needs to be scrapped.
Get the kids involved by cutting and sticking your leftover paper, gluing it into a scrapbook, and adding photos, words and decorations to create a family book of festive mementos.
DIY Decorations for the Tree and Home
Always eager to please, it’s no surprise that Santa’s hair has turned white as the finances at this time of year are often stretched and sometimes even he has to pull tightly on the reins. Still, he always manages to make Christmas dreams come true.
So, taking a giant leaf out of Santa’s book, you too can make amazing savings by making your own Christmas decorations for the home and tree.
Make even more savings by sending Christmas e-cards to friends and family instead of sending traditional cards. Notably, the ‘Elf Yourself’ digital Christmas cards are especially popular –www.elfyourself.com
Giving at Christmas
Christmas is truly the season of giving and there are so many ways families can give something back to the community or worthwhile charity.
Christmas Day Swims are becoming incredibly popular such as those in Hunstanton and Lowestoft, whilst the Santa Fun Runs are a colourful spectacle that all members of the family can join in with.
Buying a Real Christmas Tree
What better way to celebrate the festive season than with the most glorious Christmas tree! Each tree species can be a little different in size, scent and needle retention, so here’s the Forestry Commission England’s guide to choosing the perfect Christmas tree:
Norway Spruce: Considered the traditional Christmas tree, the Norway Spruce is best known for its wonderful shape, abundance of branches and lovely ‘Christmassy’ scent.
Nordmann Fir: With its big needles which are lovely and soft, Nordmann Fir are perfect for those with young children. Having soft foliage and an even shape, it makes it a joy to decorate.
Lodgepole Pine: With the best needle retention of them all, Lodgepole Pines are perfect for those who like a long festive season. It has luscious long green needles with branches that point upwards which hold a wonderful pine scent.
Caring for your Christmas Tree
Preventing needles dropping and the green from fading on your Christmas tree requires a little bit of care and attention. Follow these top tips for a longer lasting, healthier real Christmas tree:
Cut off 2.5cm from the trunk to aid with water absorption
Put the tree in a stand with the trunk immersed in water
Keep your tree in a cool, dry space. Away from radiators and fires
Water your tree regularly
Read more at www.forestry.gov.uk/england-about-uk
Read on for more about the wide range of Christmas events and activities taking place in Norfolk...
‘Real Life’ Nativity Scenes at Church Farm
Christmas is always a wonderful time to take the family to visit Church Farm at Stow Bardolph. Father Christmas will be in residence in his magical woodland retreat from the 28 November, ready and waiting to listen to the children’s wish lists. There’s no need to book, just turn up for a warm welcome from the white bearded gentleman and his elf. You can also visit the “real life” nativity scenes with Church Farm’s resident animals in starring roles. For more information call 01366 382162.
Banham Zoo Host Premiere of The Snowman and The Snowdog BRICKLIVE Tour
The Snowman and The Snowdog fans will be able to meet their favourite characters this Christmas as Banham Zoo hosts a magical new tour, The Snowman and The Snowdog brick trail, from Saturday 30 November 2019 to Sunday 5 January 2020.
Based on the UK’s favourite festive characters, the tour will consist of 16 wonderful models including 4 large models for memorable photo opportunities and 12 smaller models to create an interactive festive trail made from brightly coloured toy bricks.
Banham Zoo is the first UK venue to be announced as a host for the 2019 launch of The Snowman and The Snowdog official BRICKLIVE tour, launching on Friday 29 November at an exclusive event for the zoo’s annual pass holders.
Plus, on selected dates in the lead up to Christmas, Father Christmas will also be making a special appearance in his brand-new workshop. Visit www.banhamzoo.co.uk
Father Christmas at Fairhaven
Have yourself a merry woodland Christmas at Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 December. Take a stroll through the woodland garden to meet the reindeer and visit Father Christmas tucked away among the trees. There will also be a free Christmas Market plus live music, an Elves' Workshop with Christmas crafts and woodland illuminations. Booking is essential to visit Father Christmas. To book go to www.fairhavengarden.co.uk, or call 01603 270449.
A Magical Fairy Tale Experience in Norwich this Christmas
Offering a charming alternative to Panto, Norwich Puppet Theatre have two family shows to enjoy this Christmas Holiday. Beastly Belle is a new production inspired by the story of Beauty and the Beast, set in the dazzling world of 1920s Hollywood.
Whilst, back by popular demand, Hansel and Gretel is a colourful retelling of the classic Grimms’ fairy tale. For full details visit www.puppettheatre.co.uk
Santa has a Grotto at Highway!
To get to Santa's Grotto at Highway Garden Centre you'll need to go on an adventure through a wintery woodland full of trees, snow and ice where you'll meet lots of moving animal friends and join in with some super fun games. Then you will meet the elves busy in their workshop making toys and loading gifts on to Santa’s sleigh.
Finally, enter the warm and cosy grotto to meet Father Christmas and receive a free gift. Santa is at Highway during November weekends and daily from 1 December. In addition, Breakfast with Santa is available every weekend in December and daily from 19 December to Christmas Eve. Tickets can be booked online at www.highwaygardencentre.co.uk/events
See Cinderella at Norwich Theatre Royal
This Christmas, go to the ball at Norwich Theatre Royal! The magical family pantomime of Cinderella will delight all ages and feature a star cast including David Witts (EastEnders, Wicked), Amanda Henderson (Robyn in Casualty, Oliver!), Great Yarmouth-born Joe Tracini and Norwich’s panto favourite Richard Gauntlett. The clock is ticking to book tickets for the show which runs from 17 December to 19 January. For more, see www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk
A Truly Magical Experience in the Vancouver Quarter
Christmas is a truly magical experience in the Vancouver Quarter Christmas Grotto. This year take a wander along the wintery path towards Father Christmas’s house, see the elves in the workshops getting all the gifts ready and have a peak between the trees and see if you can spot Rudolph. There’s a letter writing station and letter box manned by some trusty elves and, new for 2019, a professional photographer will capture the magic on film. For more information visit www.vancouverquarter.com.
Twelve Days of Christmas Specials
Join the Wells and Walsingham Light Railway for 12 days of festive steam trains chugging through the glorious North Norfolk countryside. There will be three steam trains running each day on 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, 22 and 23 December.
Standard fares apply and pre-booking isn’t required. For more, see wwlr.co.uk
Natural Festive Magic at Felbrigg
Enchanted Felbrigg is a perfect event for those looking for a bit of natural festive magic without the tinsel. It’s an enchanted fusion of country folklore, legend and fantasy, following the tale of the Green Man and Snow Queen and their ongoing battle to reign supreme over the seasons.
For those who visited last year - the story continues - and those who are new to Enchanted Felbrigg don't worry, there's a chance to catch up with the story so far. For details, ring 01263 837444.
A Christmas Carol – Coming to a Venue Near You!
Everyone knows Ebenezer Scrooge, the miser who makes life a misery for everyone until eerie events lead him to change his ways. Charles Dickens’ famous Victorian tale sums up the spirit of Christmas and this December The Keeper’s Daughter will be performing this popular play at Biddy’s in Norwich and throughout Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire. Supported by Arts Council England, this magical show is suitable for all the family. See www.keepersdaughter.com
The Santa Experience at Wroxham Barns
See the great man in red at the special Santa Experience at Wroxham Barns, running each weekend from 30 November and daily from 19 to 23 December. Lasting for almost two hours and with no queues, youngsters can enjoy some fun, games and crafts at the Elf Academy with a diploma and Elf hat to take away before meeting Santa for a quality gift and Magic Key.
Afterwards, head to the undercover Animal Nativity Barn to meet Santa’s real reindeer and donkeys. Plus, there are yummy mince pies for the grown-ups and plenty of photo opportunities. Buy tickets at www.wroxhambarns.co.uk/explore/events/
Festive Fun at North Norfolk Railway
Make your family’s Christmas extra special this year and hop on board a traditional festive steam train journey to see Santa at the North Norfolk Railway. New for 2019, take a walk through the enchanting Christmas Tree Kingdom, get creative in Santa’s Workshop with hands-on, festive arts and crafts and don’t forget to say hello to Santa’s faithful reindeer. Tickets include refreshments plus a present from Santa for each child. Visit www.nnrailway.co.uk for bookings and information.
Santasaurus Rex at Dino-Themed Winter Wonderland
Norfolk families are invited to experience a magical Christmas at Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure as a dinosaur-themed winter wonderland arrives in Lenwade from Saturday 30 November. Children can stumble across the magical world of Narnia through C.S. Lewis’ enchanted wardrobe in the Lost World Maze, as well as discover creatures through the festive-themed Dinosaur Trail, filled with hidden candy canes.
Families can step into an enchanted grotto to visit Father Christmas, where Dippy and his little helpers will be on hand to give out gifts. Also, until Friday 31 January, the park will be introducing a winter offer as the gate admission price will be reduced to £10.95 for adults and children over 90cm and online tickets will be £9.95.
The winter wonderland will be open for 30 November – 1 December, 7 - 8, 14 - 15 and 19 - 24 December. Visit www.roarrdinosauradventure.co.uk/events/
Santa Trains and Mince Pie Specials
The popular Santa Train at Bure Valley Railway returns this Christmas, running during the weekends from 30 November and daily from 19 December, up to and including Christmas Eve. The Santa Train departs from Wroxham Station and travels to Aylsham Station where Santa and his railway sleigh are there to welcome each child with a personalised present.
The Steam Train to Santa experience costs £17 per person (adults and children) and advanced booking is essential. After Christmas, from 27 December 2019 to 5 January 2020, blow away the cobwebs on a Mince Pie Special through the Bure Valley countryside. For further information contact: 01263 733858 or visit www.bvrw.co.uk
Holly and Ivy at Holt Hall
Join Holt Hall for its festive event on Saturday 14 or Sunday 15 December. Tickets include a 45-minute experience in the Hall, where you will meet Father Christmas, receive a gift and decorate a Christmas biscuit.
Also included is the opportunity to explore the grounds, make a wreath, follow the Christmas trail and create a Christmas decoration using natural resources. To book, or for more information, visit www.holthall.org.uk or call 01263 713117.
Home for Christmas at Blickling Estate
Head to Blickling after school and get in the festive spirit, with late opening until 7pm daily, giving you plenty of time to explore the beautiful tree lined drive, decorated house and garden of lights. Explore 400 years of Blickling history as you wander through rooms full of festive splendour, from 1620 through to the glitz and glamour of the 1920s and beyond.
Head out into the garden and discover the spectacle of lights as you take an enchanting winter stroll, then warm up with hot chocolate and tasty treats before heading home. Home for Christmas will be running from 30 November to 20 December. For further information, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/blickling
Fun and Games at Labyrinth
Christmas wouldn’t be the same without family time and games… yet laser tag at Labyrinth takes it to another level. Join the Under 12s or Family Tag sessions during the weekends and also on Friday 20 December, Monday 30 December and Friday 3 January. Labyrinth is also running a special SEN Christmas party on Saturday 14 December, from 10am-12pm, exclusively for SEN families. Spaces cost £14pp and include an hour of laser games, pizza and fries, unlimited squash and a selection box gift. Book online at www.labyrinthnorwich.co.uk
Fireworks and Festivities in Great Yarmouth
Great Yarmouth Town Centre is the place to be this Christmas with the annual Great Yarmouth Christmas lights switch-on event and firework display on Friday 29 November combined with the 3-day Christmas Fayre being held the same weekend featuring a fantastic selection of crafts, food and specialist gift stalls. Wednesdays in December will also be well worth a visit to enjoy free entertainment, Santa’s Grotto and late-night shopping at your favourite retailers, followed by a firework display at 8pm! See more at www.great-yarmouth.co.uk/
Discover King’s Lynn this Christmas
King's Lynn promises plenty of fun for all the family this Christmas. There will be festive activities for all ages, starting with a lantern-making workshop on 24 November, ready for the Christmas lights switch on parade on 28 November. The Festive Fair, running from Thursdays to Sundays from 28 November to 24 December, will have crafts, food, drink, live music and children's entertainment while Festive Thursdays, from 5 December, will kickstart late-night shopping and much more. See www.discoverkingslynn.com/