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Ideas / Events / December
Things to do in the UK in December 2014

Father Christmas

Mince pies

Mulled wine


December is the darkest month of the year in the UK, but whatever your religion you can enjoy some of the traditions and festivities of the Christmas season (for pictures and more details, see: Ideas/Album/Christmas). The shops are decorated, and people are busy buying presents to exchange with their families on Christmas Day. You may be invited to some parties (make sure you plan how you will get home afterwards: it can be difficult to find a taxi). You may eat Christmas cake or mince pies (despite the name, there is no meat in a mince pie!), and maybe drink some mulled wine (heated red wine with sugar and fruit). You can sometimes hear people singing Christmas carols in the street, usually to raise money for charity; you can also go to a carol service in a church. Most schools, colleges and universities will be closed between Christmas Eve and New Year. Transport services are limited around Christmas, so plan any journeys you need to make carefully. Christmas itself can be a lonely time if you are on your own: try to arrange to be with a friend or organise something to keep you busy at this time. If you stay with a British family, you may want to buy some small presents to give to each of them on Christmas Day. If you want a chance to be able to watch tennis on the centre courts at Wimbledon next June / July, this is your last chance to apply (for details, see: Life/Sport/Tennis).

Applying for tickets to the Edinburgh Tattoo (in August next year):
Tickets for next year's Edinburgh Tattoo start to go on sale this month. For details of this event and how to buy tickets, see: Ideas/Album/Tattoo

Recommended last posting dates (for post to arrive before Christmas)
Wed 3 Dec 2014: Airmail to Asia, Australia, Far East (including Japan), New Zealand
Thu 4 Dec 2014: Airmail to Australia
Fri 5 Dec 2014: Airmail to Africa, Caribbean, Central America, Middle East and South America
Mon 8 Dec 2014: Airmail to Cyprus, Eastern Europe, Greece
Tue 9 Dec 2014: Airmail to Canada, Poland
Fri 12 Dec 2014: Airmail to USA
Sat 13 Dec 2014: Airmail to Western Europe (except Greece, Poland)
Thu 18 Dec 2014: UK second class letters
Sat 20 Dec 2014: UK first class letters
Tue 23 Dec 2014: UK Special Delivery (letters/packages up to 2kg)

For further details, see:
* Post in the UK: Life/Post

Fri 21 Nov 2014 -
Sun 4 Jan 2015
Winter Wonderland, London
A Big Wheel and other rides, an ice rink and a Christmas market are put up in London's Hyde Park (nearest Tube: Hyde Park Corner or Marble Arch; map). Pre-booking is recommended for some attractions. For details, see:

Winter Wonderland: Big Wheel, stalls

... skating ...

... and rides (in Hyde Park)

Mon 1 Dec 2014 World Aids Day, UK & worldwide
World Aids Day (on 1 December) has been created to educate people about Aids. It seeks to remove the stigma and discrimination which can prevent effective HIV & Aids prevention and care worldwide. It also seeks to make people more aware of what they can do to reduce the risk of becoming infected.
For more details about events on World Aids Day, see:

Thu 4 Dec 2014 Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, London
[usually performed on the first Thursday in December]
In the Second World War Norway was occupied by the Nazis. The King of Norway escaped to Britain and set up an alternative government in London for 5 years until the war was over. The Norwegian resistance secretly sent a tree from Norway each year to make the King feel closer to his homeland. After the war, the Norwegian government decided to offer a large Norwegian tree to Britain each year, as a symbol of friendship and to thank the nation for helping the Norwegian people. This fir tree, which is about 75 feet (26 metres) high, is put up in Trafalgar Square, London (map; nearest Tube: Charing Cross). The tree is decorated in a traditional Norwegian style with 500 white lights: these lights will be lit from noon until midnight each day during the Christmas period (until 6th January).
Crowds gather from about 5pm, the ceremony starts at 6pm, with carol singing before the lights are switched on at about 6:30pm.
For more details, see: or
* Photos of this event: Ideas/Album/NorwegianTree

Norwegian Christmas tree, Trafalgar Square

Sat 6 Dec 2014 Santa Run, Battersea Park, London
6km fun run through London's Battersea Park - participants pay an entry fee and dress as Father Christmas and raising money for the charity Disability Snowsport UK.

Sat 6 Dec 2014 Great Christmas Pudding Race, London
Teams dressed in fancy clothes race around an obstacle course in Covent Garden. To make it more difficult, they have to carry a Christmas pudding on a tray. The winner receives the Pudding Trophy. The event raises money for Cancer Research UK. For details see:
* Pictures of the event: Ideas/Album/PuddingRace

Great Christmas Pudding Race,
Covent Garden

Christmas pudding
(with holly decoration)

Sun 7 Dec 2014 Blessing of the Crib, London
Meet on the steps of St Martin-in-the-Fields church at 5.20pm for a torch-lit procession to Trafalgar Square led by the Salvation Army Band with the Choir and Clergy of St Martin-in-the-Fields. A crib is placed in the heart of Trafalgar Square and blessed during a short service. See:

Mon 8 Dec -
Tue 23 Dec 2014
Carol singing in the Square, London
Groups of carol singers will perform daily (late afternoon / early evening) next to the Norwegian Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, raising money for charity.

Mon 8 Dec 2014 Royal Variety Performance, London
Since 1912 there has been an annual variety show performance attended by the king or queen, with the money raised going to a fund to help retired entertainers in need (the artists perform for free). The show - which was recorded a couple of weeks earlier - is shown on television (on ITV1) this evening (it can be watched for a few days afterwards on The winner of the Britain's Got Talent competition is one of the acts performing. See:

Tue 9 Dec 2014 Get Into London Theatre, London
Booking opens today for the Get Into London Theatre promotion. A limited number of tickets for London shows (for performances in January and early February next year) go on sale for reduced prices of £40, £30, £20 or £10. See:
* London theatre: Life/Entertainment/Theatre/Tickets

Sat 13 Dec -
Sun 14 Dec 2014
Dickensian Christmas, Rochester
Christmas celebrations in Rochester, including many costumed characters from the books by Charles Dickens and a Christmas market.
* Rochester: Travel/Tours/England/Rochester

Tue 16 Dec -
Wed 24 2014
This Jewish festival (known as Hanukkah, Hannuka or Chanukah) starts at sundown on the first day and lasts for 8 days.
The festival is celebrated in London's Trafalgar Square by illuminating one of the lights of a Menorah (a candelabrum) every evening.

Tue 16 Dec -
Mon 22 Dec 2014
International Showjumping, London
A top showjumping event at Olympia, Hammersmith Road (horses jumping over fences, inside a hall). See: There are also some events for dogs and ponies. Highlights are shown on BBC television.
* Equestrian sports in the UK: Life/Sport/Horse


Wed 17 Dec 2014 Christmas last posting day: second class letters, UK
If you want to send Christmas cards from the UK to another address in the UK using second-class stamps (this is cheaper), you are recommended to post them before this date. They should be delivered before Christmas Day. For details of other last posting dates, see:
* Post in the UK: Life/Post

Fri 19 Dec 2014 Christmas last posting day: first class letters, UK
The last chance for you to send a Christmas card to another address in the UK and be confident that it will be delivered before Christmas Day - but you must use first class stamps. For details of other last posting dates, see:
* Post in the UK: Life/Post

Sun 21 Dec 2014 Shortest day of the year (Winter solstice), UK
If you are depressed by how soon it gets dark, this will slowly get better from now ...
The shortest day has been important since early times: many standing stones and stone circle are aligned with the sun on either this day or the summer solstice (the longest day of the year).
* British weather: Britain/Weather

Sun 21 Dec 2014 Burning of the Clocks, Brighton
The shortest day of the year is celebrated in Brighton by a lantern procession and a bonfire on the beach.
* Burning of the Clocks festival: Ideas/Album/Burning-Of-The-Clocks

Wed 24 Dec 2014 Christmas Eve, UK
Christmas Eve is not a public holiday in the UK, but many people will not work a full day because they need to travel to their families. Public transport services may finish earlier than usual.
Many Christians go to a midnight service in churches to celebrate the start of Christmas Day.
* Transport information in the UK: Travel/Transport

Wed 24 Dec 2014 A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, Cambridge
At 3pm at King's College Chapel in Cambridge is a traditional carol service called "A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols": the carols are sung by the famous King's College choir. You can listen to the service live on BBC Radio 4. Alternatively, you can watch "Carols from Kings" on television on BBC2 (this is recorded a few days earlier). People in Cambridge who wish to attend the service usually start queuing early in the morning.
* Guide to Cambridge: Travel/Tours/England/Cambridge

Thu 25 Dec 2014 Christmas Day, UK
This is a public holiday in the UK. Christmas Day is when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, so many people go to local church services. Most people spend the day together with their families: they talk, exchange presents, eat and drink, and watch television. The Queen's Christmas Message is broadcast in the afternoon - it is a tradition for many British people to watch this.

Most shops, restaurants and places of entertainment are closed. Hotels, pubs and some Indian restaurants may be open, but you may need to book in advance if you want a meal at one of these.

Most public transport services do not operate on Christmas Day. If you need to get to Heathrow airport, check the following websites for details of any train or coach services: Heathrow Express (, Oxford Tube ( If you need to get to Gatwick airport, check the following websites for details of any train or coach services: Gatwick Express ( If you want to travel by taxi, make sure that you book this in advance (fares will be higher than normal).

If you are not with your family this can be a lonely time. You may try to arrange to get together with some other friends who don't have a family here and live nearby, or stay at home and watch TV. Some universities organise some activities for international students who are living on campus. Another possibility is to join a tour over the Christmas period (for details of tours this month, see: Travel/Tours/Dates/December).

* Christmas celebrations in the UK: Ideas/Album/Christmas

Presents under the tree

Christmas crackers

Roast turkey lunch

Fri 26 Dec 2014 Boxing Day, UK
A public holiday in the UK. Some shops start their post-Christmas sales now (people sometimes queue up early outside department stores in the hope of getting a good bargain). Check if local transport services are working - if they are, they may have a reduced service and may start later in the day than normal, and there may be engineering works affecting some train journeys. There are some sports events, including football and horse racing.

Tue 30 Dec 2014 Torchlight procession, Edinburgh
A traditional part of the early Hogmanay (New Year's) celebrations in Edinburgh is a procession leaving Parliament Square. People carry torches and are accompanied by bagpipes and drums. The procession ends at Calton Hill, where there is a firework display. See:
* Pictures from Edinburgh Hogmanay: Ideas/Album/Hogmanay

Torchlight procession in Edinburgh

Wed 31 Dec 2014
[details to be confirmed]
New Year's Eve, UK
Many people in the UK stay up until midnight on New Year's Eve so that they can celebrate the start of the New Year. As midnight approaches, British people traditionally watch Big Ben (the bell in the Houses of Parliament), and celebrate after it strikes for the 12th time: this is shown on television. It is traditional to make a New Year's Resolution (a promise to start doing something in the new year). You may be invited to someone's New Year Eve houseparty. Many pubs and clubs have special events. Check what transport is available in the area where you live to make sure you can get home. You may find it difficult to get a taxi unless you have pre-booked (for your own safety avoid using unlicensed minicabs). Do not drink if you will be driving, and do not drink on public transport. In crowded areas please be careful about pickpockets and avoid carrying glass bottles. Check your local weather forecast before going out. Outdoor events may be affected if there are strong winds and/or heavy rain.

In London, people often gather in the area around Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square and Parliament Square from about 9pm until the early hours of the morning. The sound of the chimes of Big Ben will be heard through speakers along the Embankment (between Westminster and Jubilee Bridges) on the South Bank (on Belvedere Road) on Trafalgar Square and on Parliament Square. There will be a 10-minute firework display at the London Eye starting at midnight. In 2014 this is a ticketed event - see: The fireworks will also be shown live on BBC1 television. In previous years a special free overnight Tube service has been provided, from 11:45pm until 4:30am. Note that some Tube stations (Westminster, Embankment, Leicester Square and Embankment) may be closed for part of the evening/morning to prevent overcrowding. For full details of public transport services during the night see: For further information see:

In Edinburgh there is a street party and fireworks (you need to have bought tickets in advance to attend the street party). Scotland is famous for its New Year's celebrations (the event is called Hogmanay); for details see:
* Pictures from Edinburgh Hogmanay: Ideas/Album/Hogmanay

In Cardiff there will be celebrations in the area around City Hall (the event is called Calennig). For details see:

Big Ben: the end of the year

Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh

Firework display at the London Eye

Events for which dates have not been confirmed (or which may not be taking place this year) - check the links for the latest details:

  Festival of Angels, York
Ice sculptures, stalls and street entertainment in the historic centre of York. This event is not taking place in 2014
* York: Travel/Tours/England/York

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Events in January: Ideas/Events/January
Christmas celebrations in the UK: Ideas/Album/Christmas
Winter sports: Life/Sport/Winter
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