Christmas crackers in Oxfordshire

Karen Neville

The Parsonage Grill

December 25th is hurtling towards us faster than a child can unwrap their presents but there’s plenty to wrap yourself up in before the ‘big day’ with events to enjoy, markets to plunder, food and drink to tuck into and not forgetting Santa to visit…

Are you hanging up your stocking on the wall? Ok, perhaps a bit too soon but in the words of Noddy Holder ‘It’s Christmas’ and there’s so much to do before it’s stocking time.

Christmas demands sparkle and magic so how about starting the festive season with a light trail? A multitude of twinkling lights and seasonal sounds fill the air with festive fun at Blenheim Palace. Discover glittering tunnels of light, dancing lakeside reflections and trees drenched in jewel-like colour on one of the country’s most popular illuminated trails. Heart-shaped arches will glitter in the moonlight, tunnels of stars and an 8m sphere will be filled with over 20,000 moving LED lights. There’s even a chance to glimpse Father Christmas along the way. The Palace itself will transform into a winter wonderland as a contemporary edition of Sleeping Beauty’s story comes to life. The Great Court outside plays host to a traditional Christmas Market.

There’s all the nostalgia of a warm, bustling, 60s country Christmas at Chastleton this year. In the inimitable style of the lively last owners of Chastleton, the Clutton-Brocks, there are cocktails on the sideboard, dinner on the table, board games and classic Christmas television. You can even get stuck in with a game of Twister. For younger visitors, there’s a festive activity trail. For a rare chance to see Chastleton after dark, book an evening Christmas tour with a warming drink and mince pie.

Open at Christmas for the first time, Nuffield Place will be beautifully decked with trees, garlands, fairy lights and lots of car-inspired decorations. Home to William Morris, Lord Nuffield, founder of Morris Motors, the house guides share stories of the house and family as you wander around the decorated house, Driving Home for Christmas.

Greys Court has always been a place of warmth and welcome and this Christmas it is brimming with cherished Christmas memories. The house and estate are adorned with decorated trees, twinkling fairy lights and the magic of the season. Embodying the spirit of Christmas past, nostalgia runs through the gift-wrapped presents, traditional toys in the nursery and Lady Brunner’s gingerbread baking is available to taste in the kitchen. There’s a Christmas trail for children around the garden and candelight tours for grown-ups to explore Greys Court after dark with a glass
of mulled wine and a mince pie.

Help Rudolph find his friends who are lost around the grounds at Waterperry Gardens until December 23rd. Find them all to claim a prize.

Visit Santa in his grotto at Webbs Garden Centre at Millets Farm, one of the most popular locally, booking essential, where he will be in residence through to Christmas Eve. Get your snow boots ready and join Snowball Sammy and friends at the North Pole, mix up some strength-boosting reindeer food to help get the reindeer back to their magical best. The big man is waiting patiently in his living room to meet his little helpers and as a thank you, he will present each family with a bespoke jigsaw keepsake of him and his elves. There’ll also be time for a festive photo before you go through to choose a toy from the large selection in the toy workshop… Move on to Mrs Claus’s kitchen where she’s thrilled to have little helpers to make her kitchen even merrier. Roll up your sleeves because it’s time to trim the tree and decorate some Christmas treats!

Let the lights guide you on an enchanting stroll through Cotswold Farm Park after hours on the set trail which takes you from the visitor centre through to the park’s boundaries and back. Meet, feed, and see the cute animals in the decorated barns at night. Stroll along the picturesque trail, winding through the farm like never before. With each step, you’ll be immersed in the festive spirit, surrounded by stunning light displays and the soft rustling of leaves. Enjoy a heartwarming, one-on-one encounter with Father Christmas and a day filled with festive joy. Join Mrs Claus in her workshop decorating gingerbread men and the elves in their teddy bear workshop creating your own cuddly friend.

Get ready to embark on a wild and wonderful Christmas adventure as Beale Wildlife Park gears up for the holiday season. It’s an opportunity to create lasting memories and support wildlife conservation efforts. Visit Santa’s Magical Grotto, meet the reindeer, follow the festival park trail hunting for hidden penguins or snowmen scattered throughout the park. A prize awaits at the finish line! Join in free festive crafts in the education centre and why not round off your day with mince pies
and non-alcoholic mulled wine?

One of Santa’s Castle elves will greet you at Oxford Castle & Prison before being taken into the base of St Georges Tower, home to over 1,000 years of history. Another elf will then take you to the 900-year-old Norman crypt to make wildlife friendly reindeer food to take away with you. Walk through the old Victorian Prison wing where you can make your very own Christmas tree bauble and the adults can try some mead. Spend some time with Santa and receive a pre-Christmas present. At the end of the trail you will have some time to write a wish and hang it on the wish tree.

Santa needs help to find his missing reindeer at Didcot Railway Centre, they’ve escaped and he needs them to deliver the presents. Explore the unique collection of Great Western Railway steam locomotives, carriages, wagons, buildings and artefacts at the 21 acre museum while you locate all the reindeer stations. You’ll pick up a special passport and a stocking as you enter and as a reward, at each reindeer station, you’ll receive a small gift before finishing with a visit to Santa in the giant toy workshop and you’ll get to choose your own gift. Your entry ticket also includes unlimited train rides on the main demonstration line.

Have you been naughty or nice? Santa will know when you take a train trip with him at the Cholsey & Wallingford Railway this Christmas. Be entertained by his elves, be visited by Father Christmas and every child will be gifted a present. Before departure adults will receive a free festive drink and mince pie, and children will enjoy a soft drink and a sweet treat from the Christmas Market.

Pantos are a unique part of an English Christmas and it just wouldn’t be the same without hissing, booing and cheering so get ready to shout “he’s behind you” at Jack as he climbs the beanstalk at Oxford Playhouse, join The Sinodun Players for The Adventures of Sinbad at Wallingford Corn Exchange and head to The Beacon Wantage as Robin Hood robs from the rich to give to the poor. Abingdon Drama Club are doing battle with Captain Hook in Peter Pan, Kingston Bagpuize Drama Group are searching for the owner of the slipper in Cinderella while the much-loved classic tale gets a Latin American twist at Chipping Norton Theatre. Head to the Corn Exchange Witney to meet Snow White and her seven new friends on their adventure.

Oxford City Christmas Market sets up in Broad Street with a mix of arts, crafts, food stalls and gifts daily until December 23rd.  Shop for artisan crafts at the brand new, 3x3m pop up canopies, in the traditional red and green colours of the season.

Roaring log fires and sumptuous feasts are the staple ingredients for a cracking Christmas so how about The Parsonage Grill at Oxford for your Christmas party or get together with family and friends or how about leaving the hard work to someone else and booking in for the Christmas Day menu? Details at www.parsonagegrill.co.uk/festive-season If you’re looking for somewhere grand that screams Oxford to dine on Christmas Day then head to Quod Restaurant & Bar (https://www.quod.co.uk/food-and-drink/christmas-day/) for three courses and canapes. The unique and beautiful Gees provides an enchanted setting for your seasonal celebration, perfect for that end of year get together. More at www.geesrestaurant.co.uk/festive-season

Want to spice up your Christmas fare? Mowgli Street Food in Oxford’s Westgate is all about the type of food Indians cook and eat at home, tiffins full of fresh, bright, intense flavour. The aromas from the simple dishes cooked fresh in the restaurant each morning will lure you in. Book their feasting menu for the perfect Christmas celebration with a twist. See the menus and book at www.mowglistreetfood.com/restaurants/oxford

Hobbs of Henley are running their popular Santa Cruises again this year. The brilliant Bertie Slippers will have everyone roaring with laughter and will be adding some magic, balloons and puppets to the children’s entertainment. Santa will be in his grotto bearing gifts for all the children. Plus there will be refreshments and biscuits for the kids and a cash bar for the parents. Trips on 16th, 20th and 22nd, booking at www.hobbsofhenley.com/santa-cruises

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas with this ultimate feel good, sing-along concert, guaranteed to bring you Christmas cheer and have you dancing in the aisles! The UK’s number one Michael Buble tribute act is taking to the stage of the historic Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, with a live big band where you can hear best loved hits such as White Christmas, Santa Baby, Holly Jolly Christmas, All I Want For Christmas Is You and many more, performed by candlelight on December 13th.

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