Gemma Bowes, Rachel Dixon, The Guardian, November 25, 2014
Burning the Clocks, Brighton
Beautiful lanterns made from paper and willow are produced by Brighton and Hove folk in preparation for the annual “burning of the clocks” celebration on 21 December, the shortest day of the year. A lantern procession through the city leads to Brighton beach, where the lamps are burnt along with a massive sculptural light, and fireworks are let off to live music. The event is run by community charity Same Sky and is intended as a festive celebration that transcends religion and tradition.
• Parade starts 6.30pm, samesky.co.uk
The Snowman, east Midlands and north-west
Tune in to see The Snowman, plus orchestra
Can you imagine a Christmas when no one watches The Snowman? No, nor can we. And this year there’s a new way to watch the classic 1982 film – accompanied by a live 25-piece orchestra playing the original score.
• From 7-18 Dec it tours New Mills, Chesterfield, Buxton, Kirk Hallam, Sheffield, Derby, Chester, Stoke, Warrington and Kendal. Adults £13-17, kids £8-£10, carrotproductions.com
Living advent calendar, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
The Angel OnThe Bridge pub, Henley-on-Thames, one of the venues for the Living advent calendar
Live Christmas countdowns are popular in Sweden, but so far this brilliant idea has only been adopted by one town in the UK: Henley-on-Thames. Throughout advent, a different town building will open a door or window each evening to reveal a 30-minute performance. You could see a full choir, a rock band, a poetry reading, a comedy sketch, dance … each with a festive theme.
• Every day at 6.15pm until 24 Dec, livingadventcalendar.co.uk.
Underground grotto, Wales and Gloucestershire
Bounce Below, an underground trampoline experience within the Llechwedd caverns. Photograph: B White
The amazing Bounce Below, the world’s biggest underground trampoline, at Llechwedd Slate Caverns, gets all seasonal for three December weekends, with a light display and santa’s grotto. Kids can bounce like maniacs for 15 minutes (save the mince pies for afterwards) then meet the bearded one and receive a gift. There’s also underground magic at Clearwell Caves, near the Forest of Dean, where festive play takes place in the ancient iron mines. Families walk from cave to cave following the story, and there’s a Christmas market and cafe.
• Wales: 6-7, 13-14, and 20-24 Dec, kids £15, adults £5, book ahead, bouncebelow.net. Gloucestershire: 29 Nov-23 Dec, £9, clearwellcaves.com, 10am-5pm, later on Fri
Theatrical grotto, Plymouth
Radiant Art Gallery’s Christmas grotto. Photoghraph: Dom Moore
Sitting on santa’s knee in a shopping centre is so old hat. Modern grottoes are more arty and immersive, with elaborate productions designed to whisk your child away to a magical world. One example is the Radiant Art Gallery in Plymouth, which has an artist-designed miniature theatre experience involving woodland folk and a sleeping snow creature.
• £5, until 23 December, eff.org.uk
Immersive fairytales, Stratford, London
One for brave children only: the Hidden House is a 15-minute journey through an abandoned house to rescue Little Red Riding Hood without being eaten by the Big Bad Wolf. Sound effects of creaking trees, howling wind and wild animals add to the fear-factor. Also in Stratford, Fairytales at Night in the Olympic Park blends storytelling, song, dance and puppetry.
• Hidden House from £4, or £10 for an “extreme” experience for over-12s, until 4 January, uk.westfield.com. Fairytales at Night is free, 13-14 Dec, queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk
Celebrate Saturnalia, Hampshire
Butser Ancient Farm
The ancient Roman winter festival of Saturnalia is revived at the Roman Villa at Butser Ancient Farm on 19 December. Discover how the Romans celebrated Saturnalia, with gift-giving, lighting candles, a procession and the “awakening” of a Roman god. At a separate event, stories involving the winter solstice are related around the fire in the old roundhouse, with hot chocolate and singing.
• £10 a child for each event (including one adult), butserancientfarm.co.uk
Grown-up grottos, east London
Shoreditch Town Hall hosts an alternative to the usual schmaltzy santa shenanigans in the form of Nigel and Louise’s Basement Grotto Late Nights, a play from the experimental Shunt theatre group, about an elf with a magic portal between the Town Hall and the North Pole. It’s for over 18s only, and goes on from 8pm-2am. Also in east London, Victoria Park will host Winterville throughout December, with an ice-rink, Ferris wheel, horse-drawn carriages, roller discos, gigs and live shows in a Spiegeltent including a LGBT takeover on Sundays and late nights.
• Shoreditch: 12, 13, 19, 20 Dec, £16.50, ticketsource.co.uk. Winterville: 2 Dec–1 Jan (excluding 25 and 26 Dec), free entry, winterville.co.uk
Gardens of light, Bournemouth
Photograph: Mike Massaro
Can’t imagine the English seaside feeling very Christmassy? In Bournemouth’s Lower Gardens, 10 beach huts have been turned into illuminated pods, each with themed light, sound and video installations by award-winning lighting designer Michael Grubb. There is also a giant lava lamp display, a modern grotto in the bandstand and an ice rink.
• Free, until 4 Jan, makeitbournemouth.co.uk.
Whin Park, Inverness
Whin Park’s winter wonderland
A special free event for toddlers and little tots transforms Whin Park in Inverness for evenings from 12-14 December, with a swathe of illuminations, cartoon characters brought to life, and an appearance by Father Christmas. Whin Park has some great adventure playground equipment and a miniature railway too.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
This article was written by Gemma Bowes and Rachel Dixon from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.