Cornwall at Christmas: An Insiders’ Guide
Christmas is a magical time of year in Cornwall: the beaches are vast and empty, the surf rages and the wind gives you picture-perfect rosy cheeks. It's perfect for a winter family break without the crowds. We've shared our pick of the many incredible festive events and traditions taking place around the region this year.
Festival of Light and Sound: Christmas at the Eden Project
25 Nov 2016–2 Jan 2017
On winter evenings in the run-up to Christmas, this eco visitor attraction is gorgeously lit up. Santa and his elves are in attendance on certain dates, and there’s ice-skating, light projections and winter storytelling.
Padstow Christmas Festival
1–4 Dec 2016
Cornwall has a fantastic array of talented local food producers as well as incredible chefs such as Rick Stein, Nathan Outlaw and Paul Ainsworth. Once a year these elements come together in the form of this world-famous event with food demos by top chefs, a market selling local food, drink and crafts, a beer festival, live music, a Santa fun run, carol concerts, lantern parades, fireworks and lots more.
Nadelik – A Cornish Christmas, Pendennis Castle, Falmouth
3/4 Dec 2016
Celebrate Christmas the Cornish way at this dramatic castle, hosting fireside tales, music, carol-singing and dancing. There will be craft and gift stalls for sourcing perfect presents, workshops where you can make Christmas cards with Cornish good wishes and Cornish ‘Christmas Bunches’, visits with Father Christmas in the castle keep and lots of mince pies and mulled wine to keep you going.
Lantern Ghost Storywalk, St Ives
3, 10, 17 & 30 Dec 2016
Telling ghost stories at Christmas is a long-established tradition – the most famous example being Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Meet up with wonderful storyteller Shanty Baba in St Ives and he will guide you on a walk around the harbour town by the light of his hurricane lantern. Tales of ghosts, smugglers and other spirits of the night will thrill and chill you as you visit the most haunted places in the town.
Santa Fun Run, Falmouth
10 Dec 2016
If you're anticipating too many days in front of the TV watching Christmas movies while downing mince pies and vats of Baileys, offset some of the calories (and guilt) by getting yourself to this event, with proceeds going to Cornwall Hospice Care. If you want to join in rather than spectate, advance registration is recommended.
Mousehole Harbour Lights
18 Dec 2016–7 Jan 2017
Everything from angels and Christmas puddings on the hillside to floating sea monsters in the harbour illuminate this gorgeous village for the festive season, with a total of 7,000 bulbs and 8km of cables required! All lights are made in the village. There are lots of gift shops around the harbour perfect for Christmas shopping, pubs for a warming pint or some traditional Stargazy Pie, and of course fish and chip shops.
Montol Festival, Penzance
12–21 Dec 2016
This arts and community festival celebrates the midwinter solstice and Cornish traditions of the past with lantern- and mask-making workshops, bands, carol services, storytelling, late-night shopping and Mummers plays. On Montol Eve (21 Dec) people dress in costumes and mask, light fire-beacons and burn the Mock or Cornish Yule log. The Mock, chalked with the figure of a stickman to represent Old Father Time as the symbol of the death of the old year and the birth of the new, is then thrown on the fire. Reflecting the ‘death’ and ‘rebirth’ of the sun, there are two fire-lit processions – incredible and very dramatic to watch or to join in with.
Boxing Day Swims
26th Dec 2016
The sensible among us tend to have a bit of a lie-in on Boxing Day while recovering from the effects of a few too many glasses of wine the day before. But many hardy Cornwall types don their best swimming togs or even fancy dress to plunge into our chilly seas. The crazy tradition is a great way to blast away the excesses of the festive season and the swims are usually in aid of a charity. They take place all around the Cornish coast so if you fancy a bracing dip and doing a good deed, head down to your nearest beach and get involved – but remember the rule: no wetsuits! Hot-water bottles and hot toddies at the ready…
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Image credit: The Eden Project.