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Christmas 2021

Celebrate the festive season with family and friends at our historic places.

For 2021, we’re looking forward to bringing back our popular Enchanted events at Eltham Palace and Audley End House and Gardens. What’s more, our festive family-friendly adventure quest will now be available over the entire festive season.

Read on to discover more, find an event near you and explore the history of your favourite Christmas traditions.

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Enchanted Events

Our popular Enchanted events are returning to Eltham Palace and Audley End House and Gardens this winter. 

Gather your friends and family to banish the dark winter nights and experience the past in a spectacular new light. Explore the grounds and gardens to discover a magical world of illumination, sound and colour, and see historic buildings bathed in light.

Warm up with a glass of mulled wine, toast a marshmallow under the night sky or hop on a traditional fairground ride. Our shops will be open for you to stock up on a range of Christmas gifts, from traditional toys to award-winning food and drink.

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Christmas Adventure Quests 2021

Explore our historic places with a festive family-friendly adventure quest. Follow the trail, find the clues and discover our amazing stories and secrets. This year our Christmas quest will be available throughout the festive season. You can join the quest at the following places from 27 Nov - 2 Jan 2022:

South of England

Dover Castle, 1066 Battle of Hastings Abbey & Battlefield, Osborne, Pendennis Castle, Stonehenge

London and the East of England

Framlingham Castle, Wrest Park,

The Midlands

Bolsover Castle, Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Garden

North of England

Whitby Abbey, Brodsworth Hall and Gardens, Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens, Beeston Castle and Woodland Park

Christmas at Kenwood

New for 2021, the grounds of Kenwood come alive with a spectacular burst of Christmas magic across a 1.5km trail featuring a mix of light, fire and sound.

From 26 November 2021 to 9 January 2022, the much loved grounds of Kenwood will become home to an illuminated trail that invites you to see the historical landscape in a new light, as you step into a dazzling winter wonderland.

With a Christmas market, featuring festive refreshments, street food and a fully licensed bar Christmas at Kenwood promises to be a seasonal classic and in future years we hope, one of your much loved traditions.

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The History of Father Christmas

The jolly old man who sneaks into our houses every 24 December is beloved across the world and known by many names. But should you call him Father Christmas, St Nicholas or Santa Claus? What's the difference? Where did he come from? Is he a Christian saint or a corporate stooge?

In this article we'll explore how Father Christmas emerged in England at a time when seasonal celebrations were under attack. We'll also uncover the transatlantic origins of Santa Claus, and find out what happened when these two festive figureheads met in the 19th century.

Find out more

A SHORT HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS GREENERY

Decorating our homes with greenery is a Christmas tradition ingrained in our national consciousness. The Christmas tree is, of course, the most well-known, but it is equally hard to imagine Christmas without wreaths, holly and mistletoe. But when and why did such traditions emerge? 

In this article we delve into the history of Christmas greenery to try to find the origins of some much loved traditions. 

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Christmas Through the Ages

CHRISTMAS PODCASTS

Learn more about our historic properties and collections in our weekly podcast. Join presenter Charles Rowe as he meets leading experts to find out about the people and places that helped to shape England’s history.

Throughout the festive period we will be exploring the origins of Mead, learning which Christmas traditions were invented by Victoria and Albert, and finding out about the raucous Christmas party planner of the past, the Lord of Misrule.

DISCOVER OUR PODCASTS
  • A Christmas conversation: The history of midwinter traditions

    Explore the history of the midwinter traditions that extend beyond Christmas Day into the New Year. Discover the alternative name for Boxing Day, why there are 12 days of Christmas and the origins of Christmas carols and gift giving. Plus, we reveal the surprising truth about when you should take your Christmas decorations down.

  • The rise of mead: the world's oldest alcoholic drink

    Once the Vikings’ drink of choice, mead now has a new and growing following of people who are putting a modern twist on the historical classic. To celebrate the revival of this golden brew, we head into the studio with resident expert Cameron Moffett to discover the history of the world’s oldest alcoholic drink. 

  • Celebrating Christmas with Queen Victoria and Albert at Osborne

    Osborne curator Michael Hunter to reveals how Queen Victoria and Prince Albert celebrated Christmas. Discover how the royal couple popularised a new way of seeing in the festive season, how Prince Albert was instrumental in bringing German traditions to Britain and what Christmas was like for the servants working at Osborne.

  • A weird and wonderful history of Christmas

    English Heritage Trustee Ronald Hutton discussed weird and wonderful Christmas traditions. Listen on to discover the story behind Santa Claus, the yule log and Christmas cards, carols, trees and stockings, not to mention the puzzling traditions of kissing under mistletoe, wassailing, Mummers' plays and the Lord of Misrule.

Christmas Carols From Bolsover Castle

Enjoy traditional Christmas carols to help you get you into the festive spirit.

In this special performance the Chesterfield Philharmonic Choir, conducted by Steven Roberts, present O Come, All Ye Faithful, Away in a Manger and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing in the beautiful surrounds of this historic castle.

Watch on YouTube

Things to do in winter

A selection of our free-to-enter and staffed sites remain open across England. All have large outdoor spaces for you to get outside safely this winter.

Wrap up warm and explore the sites open near you. Enjoy frosty garden walks or discover local historic ruins. If you are staying in, we have a wide range of videos, articles and quizzes so you can learn something new from the comfort of your own home. We've got all the tips you need to enjoy the colder months ahead.

Find out more

More to Explore - Christmas

  • Dog Friendly Days Out

    We've got lots of options for dog-friendly days out at our castles, abbeys and historic gardens. Find a day out for you and your furry friend.

  • Gift of membership

    Give the gift of unlimited access to over 400 historic places this Christmas, with English Heritage membership. 

  • UNIQUE CHRISTMAS GIFTS

    Our carefully chosen range offers inspiring, imaginative, and unusual alternatives to the high street.

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