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To do something different this Christmas, you don’t need to go abroad or spend a fortune. Around the UK this December are a number of events which are either free or fairly cheap. From lantern parades in Brighton to an underground Santa’s Grotto in Gloucestershire, there are all kinds of festive activities going on for the whole family. Here are a selection of the best ones.
Burning the Clocks – Brighton, East Sussex
Held annually on the winter solstice, this event is about bringing light into the darkness. It started in 1994 as a way of bringing the community together to celebrate the season regardless of religion or creed. Each year, around 2,000 people create lanterns, made of paper and willow, of all shapes and sizes to carry through the streets in a beautiful illuminated parade. Following a route through the city centre, the procession ends up on the seafront where the lanterns, along with a huge paper sculpture, are burnt in a spectacular bonfire which is accompanied by fireworks.
This year, the main event is being preceded by a ‘Lantern Trail’ during December where specially designed lanterns will be displayed in shop windows in different locations around the city.
The parade itself begins at 6.30pm and reaches the seafront around 7.15pm. This year the solstice falls on a Sunday, 21st December.
Living Advent Calender – Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
Taking a concept from Stockholm, Sweden, the town of Henley-on-Thames has turned itself into a living advent calender. Each evening from 1st to the 24th December at 6.15pm sharp, one building in the town will open a door or window to reveal a performance. Some nights it will be songs, carols or music, on others it will poetry, stories or book exert readings and on others still it will be dancing, local history or sketches.
This event brings local businesses and residents together to organise the various venues and events. Collections for charity also take place each night.
“The Perfect Christmas Tree” at Clearwell Caves, Royal Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire
We’ve all been to Santa’s Grottos in shopping centres where Santa is clearly a young man in a false beard surrounded by fake greenery and thin tinsel. Clearwell Caves have created an altogether different experience.
Here Santa has a real underground grotto with a complex of nine caves filled with displays telling the story of “The Perfect Christmas Tree”. In addition, the main cavern, 100ft underground, houses a Christmas market selling seasonal goods. This attraction will be there from 29th November until 4th January (Father Christmas will not be present after Christmas), open from 10am to 5pm before Christmas and from 10am to 3pm afterwards. The cost of entry is £9 for anyone over 2 years old and this includes a free present from Santa for all children aged between 2 and 14 years old.
The Garden of Lights, Lower Gardens, Bournemouth
Bournemouth have discovered something interesting and exciting to do with their beach huts by using their traditional frames to house spectacular light installations using light, architecture, materials, sound and video to create an immersive experience. Entrance to these huts is completely free of charge and they will be open from 10am to 10pm 28th November until 4th January. In addition, the Garden of Lights has an ice rink with café bar, Santa’s Grotto and other light displays around the gardens.
So, you don’t need to leave the country for a bit of excitement this Christmas. Here in Britain there are all sorts of unusual and interesting events going on which can be enjoyed by everyone.