Published on November 22, 2012 | by Stephanie Richardson


ALN’s alternative guide to Christmas

Christmas lights on Oxford Street

Christmas in London… [Helen Hasse]

The dark nights have slowly crept in and the temperature outside is dropping further towards sub zero levels, which can only mean one thing – Christmas is coming to town. As everybody’s favourite time of year is fast approaching and the festive season is edging ever closer, the stress and panic about where to go, what to eat  and what to buy starts to kick in and people up and down the country work themselves into a seasonal flurry.

If you are sick and tired of Christmas in the traditional sense, you have come to the right place. Arts London News has delved into the alternative side of the season to bring you something a little different this year. From Christmas cocktails served in teapots to unusual events in both the United Kingdom and abroad, take a walk on the festive wild side this year and use our alternative guide as a go-to for an extraordinary Christmas this year.


If you do not fancy spending Christmas down your local boozer – getting drunk over the thought of spending a whole day with your extended family – why not think outside of the festive box this year and try something different? There are plenty of events taking place in 2012 for an alternative Christmas in the UK and luckily for you, we have compiled a list of our top ten alternative things to do this festive season.

Christmas Nightmare

2012 sees the return of the annual ‘Christmas Nightmare’ show at The London Bridge Experience & London Tombs. This special Christmas show sees a ghostly Ebenezer Scrooge take you on a trip through the Christmas time tunnel – a historical journey that introduces several seasonal characters that have shaped Christmas as we know it today. On the way, you get the chance to enjoy the Roman winter feast of Saturnalia during which you get to experience Christmas dinner with a surprise twist. Then comes the infamous ‘vomit collectors’ – who cleaned up the vomit of diners who purged themselves – who get up close and personal with visitors. After this, you will be taken on a journey back through time to discover how many of the infamous Christmas myths were formed. To finish, Charles Dickens himself will help you to encounter the darker side of the festive season.

The London Bridge Experience & London Tombs, SE1 2SY

Starts in December – exact date TBC, £20

The Brighton Santa dash

If you want to leave London for the day, why not get yourself down to Brighton to take part in the annual Brighton Santa dash? Every year, thousands gather down by the Brighton coastline to take part in this charity event, which raises money to build schools in Africa. The dash is a nice, flat, 5km run so you do not need to worry about training for the event. It costs £14 to enter, for which you receive a Santa suit, a bespoke medal and the satisfaction that every penny raised goes to charity.


10.30am Saturday December 8,  £14

Designers/makers Christmas market

The Southbank Centre is offering an alternative Christmas market where 50 designers and makers from all across the UK will sell their bespoke design products. While you are there, take the opportunity to participate in an affordable-gift workshop, whilst enjoying the festive food and drinks on offer in the meantime.

Southbank Centre, SE1 8XX

Friday December 14-Sunday December 16, Free

Camp as Christmas

Camp as Christmas provides you with a mixture of light entertainment and camp frolics from gay icon, Scottee. If you like having a good laugh, this show is perfect for you. Scottee provides a nostalgic feeling of British comedy, where variety entertainment and television re-enactments are central to his show. His vast experience in the world of theatre and comedy provides for an unmissable show for anybody who enjoys a gay old time.

Roundhouse, NW1 8EH

8pm December 13-22, £10-£12.50

The Great Pudding Race

This quirky event is the 32nd of its kind and is one of the most exciting charity events of the festive season. Teams of six wear an array of festive costumes and have to run around Covent Garden, avoiding obstacles like balloons full of flour, while balancing on a plate. You can only enter in teams of six and registration is £25 per person. All the proceeds raised go to Cancer Research UK so the Great Christmas Pudding Race is a brilliant way to enjoy a fun day out and raising money for a good cause.

Covent Garden, London

December 1, £25

Meow Meow

Reliving the classic fable, The Little Match Girl, is the international cabaret sensation Meow Meow. Her modern spin on the classic tale will ignite your senses as she takes you on a journey through the means of humour, singing, dancing and storytelling. The Little Match Girl received excellent reviews at its sold-out run at the Sydney Festival earlier this year, so do not miss out on seeing the sultry cabaret artiste in action.

Southbank Centre, SE1 8XX

December 13-30, £15-£30

Santa Gold! Art Macabre’s Festive Special

Art Macabre – the people behind the monthly weird and wonderful drawing salons are offering a Christmas special; Santa Gold! Feel like sketching a ‘sumptuous feast of gods and goddesses’ that takes inspiration from the myth of Midas, where everything is turned to gold? Art Macabre invites you to “explore the dangers of gluttony, greed and unearthly desires for a series of after hours, playful and relaxed, alternative life drawing events.” So take along pencils, chalk or whatever you fancy and prepare yourself to experience disturbing muses, a multitude of media and let your imagination run wild.

Cass Art, N1 8AB

7.30pm Tuesday December 18, £8

Deck the Halls with the Belles of Burlesque!

International burlesque star Miss Tempest Rose and her House of Burlesque offer a festive special of the very best burlesque and cabaret. Bringing classic burlesque elegance, the House of Burlesque present a clever, comedic and entertaining evening with equally lavish costumes. With most of their shows selling out over the past three years, make sure to get your ticket quickly to guarantee your place to watch this magnificent performance.

Madame Jojo’s, W1F OSE

7.30pm-9.30pm December 14 and 18, from £10 (tickets also include a free burlesque class)

London Gay Men’s Chorus – It’s Comin’ On Christmas

To celebrate their strong friendship and 21 Christmases together, the London Gay Men’s Chorus are inviting you to watch them perform their unique sparkly Christmas show. As well as singing the festive classics, the group also indulge you in some of their favourites, while also offering a few cheeky surprises along the way.

Southbank Centre, SE1 8XX

December 7 and 8, £15-£37

Throw a party!

If you really feel like a scrooge this year and flinch at the thought of spending any money on Christmas, why not gather all of your friends at yours for a festive party. Tell them to bring Christmas-themed food and drinks to keep your costs down to a minimum. Pop down to a pound shop to decorate your place with the most crass decorations they have on offer and drape cotton wool over everything as a substitute for fake snow and voila – you have yourself a Christmas party.


Sick and tired of the compulsory Christmas cheer in the UK? Then take a trip elsewhere in Europe to experience a different side of the festive season this year. From traditional markets to Santa Claus championships, we offer you our top five things to do abroad this Christmas.

Christmas Beer Festival

Each year, the Objective Beer tasters Essen Region (O.B.E.R.) organises its Christmas Beer Festival. Visitors to the event have the opportunity to taste more than 100 Belgian Christmas and winter beers over the space of two days. The international audience – about 1,800 annually – can try a taste of one of the best beer lists in the world, as well as enjoying soup, beef stew and their legendary Christmas-beer-baked bread. Join the festive fun and try 150 Belgian Christmas and winter beers.

Essen, Belgium

December 15 and 16, Free

Santa Claus World Championship

Each year, Santas from all over the world gather in Switzerland to take part in Clau Wau, the Santa Claus World Championships. The 32 teams of jolly men have to take part in ten difficult tasks including hurried porridge eating, lively reindeer and sled racing, gingerbread house decorating and a stint of chimney climbing. If you fancy seeing the cream of the crop of Santas and finding out who will win the £3,500 prize, then this event is perfect for you.

Samnaun, Switzerland

December 1, 10am, Free

Gubbio Christmas Tree

If you like the idea of seeing the world’s largest Christmas tree then head down to Gubbio, a small town in the Umbria region of Italy. Every year, the town illuminates up an electric tree-shaped light circuit that stretches up the mountainside – 800 metres in the sky. Dubbed by the Guinness World Records in 1991 as the “tallest Christmas tree” in the world, the bright lights can be seen miles away, even in neighbouring countries.

Gubbio, Italy

December 6-30, Free

Christmas Eve Vigil

Whether you are religious or not, the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass in St. Peter’s Square is an experience that cannot be missed. Thousands gather at the experience to listen to the Pope’s Christmas Eve sermon that speaks to one and all, faithful or not.

Rome, Italy

December 24, Free

Velvet Cave Christmas Market

Christmas abroad is not Christmas abroad without a good Christmas market. The Velvet Cave is the place to head for a traditional market in a unique setting – a cave that is almost 1,000 years old. Offering unique gifts and mini pancakes, mulled wine and soup, this event is ideal if you are looking for a Christmas market that is a little bit special.

Valkenburg, Netherlands

November 20-December 22, £4


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