The Christmases we’re enjoying today look very different to those of the past. We can shop online and drive or fly for miles to spend time with family.
But scenes of children gleefully playing in the snow and trees decorated with candles and old fashioned ornaments on our Christmas cards suggest that many of us adore the traditions and Christmases of days gone by – so it’s lovely that so many attractions across the Winchester district are decorating and holding events this year that take us back in time to explore these Christmases of old.
From 15 November to 3 January, a festively decorated Winchester City Mill is hosting a season of Yuletide celebrations. Visitors will be able to find out about the traditions and beliefs surrounding the midwinter festival (21 December to 1 January). Discover how King Alfred and his subjects (including workers at the mill) would have celebrated. The mill will also have a special seasonal menu on offer in the cafe.
The heritage Watercress Line – which once carried people to war and transported evacuees and whose Alresford railway station more recently featured in the Harry Potter movies – will host their Steam Illustrations: an incredible light show on a steam train, decked with thousands of colourful LED lights. This event is the UK’s only Christmas steam illuminations of its type and will run on selected dates from the 26 November until the 2 January.
Hinton Ampner country house and gardens will be decorated with festive finery from 27 November to 3 January, with rooms revisiting scenes from over 500 years of Hinton’s Christmases past, and the garden filled with pops of winter colour. The traditional style pop-up sweet shop will be returning to the courtyard too, to every child and big kid (adult’s) delight!
Gilbert White’s House, in Selbourne – owned by the 18th century naturalist – will also be decorated for Christmas from 4 – 24 December – with a Christmas Market taking place on 4 December in the barn, and mulled wine carol service in the museum.
On 16 December, Jane Austen’s House in Chawton will be celebrating the beloved writer’s 246th birthday (she was born on 16 December 1775) in a very modern way, with a Virtual Birthday Party – after the success of last year’s online event, when fans worldwide celebrated. Guests will be treated to music, talks, readings and special guest appearances. While on 17 December visitors can join the ‘Six Winters’ Evening Tour – an after dark candlelit guided tour of Jane Austen’s House and its winter exhibition, visiting scenes from six memorable winters in her life and novels. Enjoy a glass of mulled wine (or apple juice) and mince pies in the Historic Kitchen after! If you missed out on ‘Six Winters’ – you can join a festive virtual guided tour of the house (18 December), from the comfort of your home. Tip – their virtual tour has been included in Forbes’ list of the World’s Best Virtual Tours.
From 1 – 31 December, Winchester City Museum will be taking visitors on a trip in time to learn how Christmas was celebrated in the past (including what food was eaten), with the chance to make traditional paper chain decorations to take home (4 – 31 December).
Starting on the 18 December and running until the 23 December, Fort Nelson will be hosting A Victorian Christmas. Experience a military Christmas in a Victorian garrison where you can meet the head chef as he prepares a Christmas feast for the soldiers. The barrack room will be festively decorated and you can learn about life at the fort at Christmas, as well as Christmas traditions and new fashions.
Take a trip out to Beaulieu in the New Forest as it comes to life with Christmas spirit. Palace House will be decorated with a Christmas tree in every room and toasty log fires. There will be a family fun trail guiding visitors across the attraction. Don’t miss the life-size Gingerbread House and watch out for Father Christmas who will be ‘out and about’ from 18 to 26 December!
Finally, if nothing says traditional Christmas like a carol service, Winchester Cathedral has a number of family events planned from 27 November to 25 December – celebrating Advent with carols, stories, and traditional readings. There is also a dress up Nativity event, Midnight Mass and Christmas Day services too.
Please check websites for opening days/times and to book tickets for events.