8 festive traditions from around the UK…
Christmas traditions vary from family to family and area to area, but there are usually some constants across the UK: turkey, presents and the Queen’s speech to name but three. Why not create a new Christmas tradition with your loved ones this year? Take inspiration on a festive short break with one of these eight local events and customs from different parts of the country…
The tradition: Plygain
Plygain is a centuries-old Welsh custom. Meaning ‘the crowing of the cockerel’, plygain was a church service traditionally held in the early hours of Christmas morning (between 3am-6am). Churches would be filled with candles for the special service. Plygain was popular after the Reformation but died out in most parts of Wales in recent years. However, the service is still held in some parts of the country and there are moves to revive the custom. Abergavenny, near the Brecon Beacons, reinstated the tradition in January 2016, with a plygain service at the more sociable hour of 6pm.
The tradition: Starlight Nights
Start a new Christmas tradition for your family with a Starlight Night at Colchester Zoo. These popular nights are part of the December festivities in this part of the world, with families flocking to the zoo after dark. Starlight Nights give you the chance to meet reindeer and walk through a Winter Wonderland lit up with candles and fairy lights. The evening finishes with a spectacular light display, and there are several Starlight Nights scheduled for 2016.
The tradition: Midnight Mass and hot chocolate
Nestled in the Lake District near Windermere, Lindeth Howe is an ideal place to escape from the hectic merry go-round of presents and parties. Each year, the hotel lays on Mountain Goat buses to ferry guests to the local church for Midnight Mass. On your return, the fire is blazing and staff are ready with piping hot chocolate, mulled wine and mince pies to keep you warm and cosy, plus board games to keep you entertained into the small hours without worrying about getting up early to stick the turkey in the oven.
4. The hotel: Chase Hotel, Wye Valley (Forest of Dean)
The tradition: Traditional Scandinavian Christmas feast
No one does Christmas like the Scandis. Embrace the concept of hygge this Christmas, and try an old-fashioned Scandinavian Christmas supper at Harts Barn. The Forest of Dean cookery school is laying on several feasts during December, with authentic dishes from Denmark, Norway and Sweden. On the menu are Swedish glögg with traditional slivered almonds and a Smorgasbord of gravadlax, herrings, cheeses, hams and rye bread to start. Mains include roasted pork rib or reindeer with Julepolse (Christmas sausage). Instead of Christmas pud or trifle, try Swedish saffron cake Lussekatter, with cinnamon rice pudding and a port and raspberry sauce. There are several Scandinavian suppers during December.
5. The hotel: Dartington Hall Hotel, Totnes, South Devon
The tradition: Christmas lunch in the medieval Great Hall
Dartington Hall is a magical place to visit over the Christmas period. There are traditional crafting workshops – where you can make wreaths and candles; live ballet screenings; and a Christmas Fair. But the highlight of the season is the much-anticipated lunch in Dartington’s Great Hall. Families, couples, locals and hotel guests pile into the medieval hall each year for a 6-course feast. The centrepiece is a Devon roast turkey roulade with chestnut and apricot stuffing and all the trimmings.
6. The hotel: Hintlesham Hall Hotel, Ipswich, Suffolk
The tradition: Christmas Day dip
Everyone has heard of the Serpentine’s Christmas Day swim, where plucky swimmers brave Hyde Park’s chilly waters for a festive dip. That quirky custom has been going since 1864, but although it is Britain’s best-known Christmas Day swim, it’s not the only one. The Christmas Day Dip in Felixstowe, Suffolk is now in its 13th year. At 10am exactly, participants will take the plunge into the icy North Sea. The swimmers are cheered on by hundreds of supporters, in what has become a popular local alternative to starting the day with Bucks Fizz and stockings. The Christmas Day Dip raises vital funds for a local hospice.
7. The hotel: Imperial Hotel, Llandudno (Promenade), North Wales
The tradition: Victorian Christmas
Step back in time and enjoy some Victorian-style Christmas celebrations in Llandudno. The Victorian seaside resort in North Wales is known for its grand 19th Century architecture and every year the town likes to go all out for Christmas. One of the highlights is the old-fashioned Christmas parade in early December. Father Christmas arrives by train and joins a parade including a town crier, steam-powered vehicles and a traditional pipes and drum band. There’s also a popular Christmas fayre with food, drink, crafts and a ‘Dickensian atmosphere’.
The tradition: Carols by Candlelight
If the adverts and jingles of contemporary Christmas are getting you down, then the festivities at Salisbury Cathedral could provide the antidote. The 13th Century cathedral has a calendar of traditional events in the run-up to Christmas Day. An annual highlight is Carols by Candlelight on 22nd and 23rd December, when the Cathedral Choir tell the nativity story through carols, choral works and Bible readings. There’s also a special family service on Christmas Eve, and a performance of Handel’s Messiah by the City of London Sinfonia and the Cathedral Choir earlier in the month.
Add a twist to your Christmas with a festive short break to one of Britain’s sparkling cities or towns.