An insider's guide to the county's best kept secrets
It’s December and the festivities of Advent have
begun once again. Are you dreaming of an idyllic
Christmas this year? One free from stress and
family feud; full of mulled wine and laughter,
Christmas lights and festive cheer? Many believe
you need to go to Europe to fully experience the
Christmas countdown but I challenge such
thoughts. When it comes to Christmas, Norfolk
really does have everything you need and more...
High Streets seem to get earlier and earlier each year filling their shelves with cards and gift ideas, but to me Christmas truly begins when the decorations go up. If real pine trees and fairy lights bring the magic alive for you, head down to one of the Christmas Tree Festivals on around the county this year. Fakenham, Sheringham and Stalham churches have up to ninety trees lit up from various charities; seeing so many of them together is sure to be a delight; or wrap up warm and search for the thirty Christmas trees around The Forum’s ‘Norwichristmas’ Tree Trail.
Christmas for children is the grand arrival of Father Christmas no doubt, but forget the usual reindeer. Buckenham Airfield has him flying in from the North Pole on an iconic 1930s Beechcraft Staggerwing on Sunday 14th. Wells Christmas Tide (a fun-filled weekend that includes a Christmas cocktail evening, market and illuminated lantern procession through the streets) inform us he’s making his long journey by sea, arriving at the Quay on Saturday 6th. Once on land though, he’ll be resident at Thursford all month where little ones can take a ‘Magical Journey’ past penguins, polar bears and busy elves at work, through the enchanting forest to reach Santa’s house - £15.50 entry includes a gift, entertainment and a 4D film per child. Why not book for the legendary
Thursford Christmas Spectacular too - the largest show of its kind in Europe - set amidst the whimsical surroundings of vintage mechanical organs and fairground carousels.
Prefer traditional Christmas carols and an old fashioned mince pie to get you in the festive spirit? Sheringham and Cromer Choral Society are offering a free ‘Come and Sing’ Christmas event on Saturday 6th at St Andrews Methodist Church, plus the Cringleford Singers
are all set for their Christmas concert at the Norfolk and
Norwich Association for the Blind activity centre (at Beckham
Place, Norwich) on Thursday 11th. A choir that consists of all
ages; they enjoy all types of music and bring humour to their
performances for all to enjoy. Expect an evening of Christmas
songs, both modern and old school, mixed with merriment
and cheer. At £5 entry, it’s a great way to support one of
Norfolk’s oldest (they celebrated their 209th anniversary this year) and most valued charities that help 20,000 people in the county with poor sight remain independent, confident and enjoy life.
Christmas is also synonymous with indulgence so make sure you visit some of Norfolk’s many successful farmers’ markets for your prize food and drink this year. Creake Abbey, along with their Christmas market on 6th and 20th, also have a huge programme of interesting workshops and demonstrations lined up. A Sherry, Port and Cheese Tasting by World Cheese Awards judge, Peter Bone (5th), Curing and Smoking Bacon, which includes dinner and a tour of Creake Abbey Smokehouse (11th) and Preparing your own Three-Bird Roast (22nd) will be sure to impress your family come the big day itself.
In my view though, the market not to be missed for all your present-buying needs
and more is Deepdale’s Christmas Market on the weekend of 6th-7th. Now in its
sixth year, this annual weekend event has grown to international status with
visitors from Japan and New Zealand to date. With excellent quality to products
and minimal duplication of goods, the ninety stalls and independent traders
provide a fabulous selection of presents, decorations and food and drink. Housed
in a marquee around the resident Dalegate shops, the market is big on
entertainment while you shop with popular local musicians performing such as
The Quaysiders, Nelsons’ Shantymen and Ad-Hoc Brass Band Collective to name
a few. With mulled wine and cider on tap and a variety of hot food options, it
really is a most enjoyable festive day out. So do yourself a favour this season and
experience Christmas the Norfolk way.
This article was written for Norfolk on my Mind magazine's Christmas 2014 issue: www.norfolkonmymind.co.uk
Amongst all these festive diary dates there is still the business of present buying to squeeze in and I urge you to avoid the manic high streets this year. Keep your stress levels low and your enjoyment factor high by shopping at Norfolk’s Christmas gift markets instead. The first weekend in December takes you back in time with Dragon Hall’s Medieval Christmas Market where traders in costumes will be selling all sorts of gifts from handcrafted wooden toys to ceramics and original jewellery. Norwich Flea market’s Christmas Nostalgia Fair takes place on Saturday 13th with over 100 stalls of antiques, vintage and retro gifts to recreate an old-fashioned Christmas once more.