Things to Do

Top 5 Things To Do in December

This December, we’ve got plenty of ideas to help you step into history.

Discover Christmas through the ages, try a traditional Victorian craft, and join us for a month full of festive events. Read on to uncover must-see properties, fascinating people and captivating videos.

1. Get festive with our Christmas events

This December we have some unmissable festive events taking place across the country.

Gather your friends and family to experience the past in a spectacular new light. Celebrate Christmas with brand new, interactive light trails at some of our most popular properties. Marvel at the sparkling historic buildings as you warm up with a glass of mulled wine and toast a marshmallow under the night sky. You can also stock up on Christmas gifts and tasty treats in our shop.

Alternatively, join Father Christmas as he shares some of his favourite seasonal stories around the Christmas tree. Then, meet the man himself, take photographs and make treasured memories, as children receive a traditional present to unwrap.

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2. Go on a walk through history

Many of our sites are situated amongst some of England’s most picturesque scenery. Over the festive season relax with a rejuvenating stroll through spectacular historical landscapes. Most of our free sites are open all year round, and you can find out about the winter opening hours of individual sites on our property pages.

Our guides are divided by region and detail routes between two or three different sites to make the most of the day. Bring along a picnic or enjoy lunch in one of our top tearooms and spend the day walking in the footsteps of our ancestors.

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3. Join us for the winter solstice

During the winter solstice, the earth’s axis is tilted at its furthest point from the sun. This means that, for us in the northern hemisphere, the sun is at its lowest point in the sky. It’s also the shortest day of the year - and the longest night.

On the morning of Friday 22 December you can marvel at an event that has marked the passage of time for thousands of years, all from the comfort of your home. We will once again be bringing the solstice to you with our live-stream from the stones. Watch live on the official Stonehenge or English Heritage Facebook page, or the English Heritage YouTube channel.

Learn about the winter solstice

4. Discover Christmas through the ages

The origins of Christmas stretch back thousands of years to prehistoric celebrations around the midwinter solstice. Discover the history of Christmas and learn how the celebrations evolved throughout the eras, including how several famous figures marked the festive period at our sites.

Gift giving is an integral part of Christmas, and certainly a highlight for many children. But why do we engage in this annual tradition, and how has the custom of gift-giving changed over the years? Join our Properties Historian Andrew Hann to take a closer look at one of our favourite festive traditions.

Another tradition with a long history is that of the Christmas dinner, a festive feast and celebration that brings together family and friends alike. Discover what this gathering would have looked like throughout the centuries and how the menu of a Christmas dinner has changed over time.

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5. Get crafty with Victorian Christmas crafts

The Victorians popularised many Christmas traditions we know and love, decorating their homes just as we do today. Most of their decorations and gifts were made using household items and are surprisingly simple to make.

Take inspiration from the past and introduce your family to Christmas crafts that originate from the Victorian period. Create your own Christmas crackers, first patented by a London confectioner in 1847. Adorn your home or enhance your outfits with pretty paper flowers, considered by Victorians to be an indispensable personal accessory. In addition, you can uncover the popular Victorian Christmas card making technique known as pin-prick cards.

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The month in history

  • On 25 December 1066 Duke William of Normandy marched into London and was crowned King of England after defeating Harold II, at the Battle of Hastings and became known thereafter as ‘William the Conqueror.’

  • Charles Darwin embarked on his five-year-long expedition aboard the HMS Beagle on 27 December 1831. This journey and the discoveries made upon it would contribute to Darwin’s ground-breaking theory of evolution, much of which was written at Down House.

  • The results of the General Election on 28 December 1918 – the first in Britain in which women had the right to vote - confirmed David Lloyd George as Prime Minister. A blue plaque can be found at his home in Wandsworth.
  • Prince Albert died on 14 December 1861, at the age of 42. Queen Victoria subsequently adopted a state of permanent deep mourning – she famously only wore black until her death 40 years later. Both Queen Victoria and her husband shared many happy memories at Osborne, their holiday home.

  • Poet and writer Rudyard Kipling – author of The Jungle Book - was born on 30 December 1865. His home in London’s Bloomsbury is now marked by a blue plaque.

More to Explore

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