What to do in the UK at... Christmas and New Year
21 December 2015

The days are short and the weather can sometimes be wet or cold - but there are lots of great things to do in the UK in December and early January as we celebrate Christmas (25 December) and the start of the New Year.

Here are some of the best things to do...

Winter Wonderlands

These wintery theme parks are becoming increasingly popular in the UK. The biggest and best-known is London's Hyde Park Christmas Wonderland, which includes skating, an observation wheel, rides, food, a circus and a skating rink, which is open to 3 January 2016 - but not Christmas Day, 25 December.

Other big Winter Wonderland events are in Cardiff, Wales, close to the Castle and the museum and in Scotland at Glasgow Loves Christmas which is open to 31 December. These are all outdoor events: indoor Wonderlands include one in Manchester aimed at families with younger children.

Pantomimes and Christmas shows

Pantomimes are a Christmas tradition in the UK and they are a bit difficult to explain. Pantomines (or pantos) are often based on a traditional story, such as Cinderella but are usually full of jokes and the audience is encouraged to shout to the people on stage (lines like "He's behind you!").

Most of the big theatres round the UK will have a pantomime on in December, and it's worth checking to see what is on where you are planning to visit. Many of the smaller shows will be listed here.

Carol services

If you're travelling in the UK close to Christmas, it is well worth trying to see a carol service in one of our beautiful cathedrals or local churches.

Carols are religious songs (hymns) that are only sung at Christmas and the weeks before, such as Silent Night and Good King Wenceslas. You may also find carol singing in public areas on shopping nights and so on.

Christmas markets

It can be fun to pick up a few presents and try some festive food and drink while you're in the UK, and Christmas shopping markets are becoming more popular. Many towns will have a few stalls in shopping centres or streets during December, while others have something much bigger, often with a German theme.

Christmas traditions and food

Christmas Day is on the 25 December. Most people in the UK celebrate with a large meal, often with family, and here in the UK it is traditional to open presents on Christmas Day. Santa Claus (also called Father Christmas) brings the presents on his sleigh to children, taking them down chimneys to put them in their homes late on Christmas Eve (24 December).

Christmas dinner often includes turkey or goose with roast potatoes, lots of vegetables and gravy. It is also common to have stuffing (a thick herbed bread or sausage-based creation which is cooked inside the bird) and Christmas Pudding (a dark, spicy pudding made with dried fruit and nuts).

New Year/ Hogmanay

If you're in the UK close to New Year, it's worth going to Scotland to celebrate Hogmanay. You'll find events of all sizes, but two are the biggest are in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Edinburgh's Hogmanay includes three days of events, a torchlight procession, street party and a major fireworks display: the street party is ticket-only. You can also join the party in Glasgow with parties of all kinds around the city.

For Harry Potter fans…

The Harry Potter Experience just outside London is a very popular destination for Harry Potter fans, including sets from the films and lots of props. If you visit in December or January, you'll find the whole experience has been transformed with a Christmas theme, with Christmas trees in the Great Hall, sets decorated for Christmas and the Hogwarts model covered in snow.

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