The Rye Christmas Guide to London + Some Festive Spirit
Yep, it’s crept up again. We really are just two weeks away from the big day.
As much as we love Christmas, it’s not quite like it used to be, with the big lead up and the butterflies that surfaced the night before. Nowadays, with work and general adult-ing, summer suddenly turns dark at 4pm and before you know it you’re sitting there on January 1st filled with doom, gloom and a throbbing head.
But, this year, we’re getting stuck in. There is so much going on around the city to get you in the mood, or if you’d rather stay in we have a few ideas up our sleeves…
Lunch with a difference
Don’t settle for corporate dining rooms, dry white meat and lukewarm mulled wine. Carousel has transformed into a Japanese inn and drinking den where you can wrap your hands around Asian bowl food and drink sake surrounded by snow-covered trees, mountainous views and Hello Kitty bathrooms. Dishoom are serving up all sorts of Indian delights onto large thaals (communal plates) to share around your table. Try the turkey raan with all the trimmings and round things off with their legendary chai that’s been given a “naughty festive twist”. Jimmy’s Lodge has returned with its private heated igloos where you can get stuck into the emmental, comté and vacherin fondue with a 360 degree view of the Thames or head to the hot cocktail bar for a butter rum and some alpine inspired street food. Lastly, Borough Market’s Cookhouse Christmas series still have a few tickets left for their intimate dinners with well-known chefs who cook your meal right in front of you, with a drinks paring and goody bags to boot.
Raise your voice
These next few weeks are the only time of year that even the most tone-deaf amongst us can belt out those tunes without judgment, all in the name of Christmas. The incredible backdrop of Westminster Cathedral is sure to get you going at the Victoria Christmas Carols on the 14th, with well-known guest speakers and canapés. From the 10th-14th you can celebrate Scandi-style, with the London Swedes at Lucia Nights in Peckham, with meatballs, sweet buns and all sorts of Swedish delights to sample after the choir’s performance. St Martin-in-the Fields will also be hosting a series of concerts over the next few weeks and the beautiful Union Chapel on Upper Street will be glowing on the 17th for its candlelight concert.
We can all agree that Christmas isn’t Christmas without a marathon of festive films. Screens have popped-up all over London showing everything from Love Actually and Elf to older classics like It’s A Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street. Tickets sell like hot cakes so grab the last ones while you can. One Aldwych, The Exhibit, Pop-Up Screens at Hackney Showroom, The Grand and The Shard all have a few left. Go, go, go…
Al fresco shopping
If the bold and brash lights of Winter Wonderland aren’t your cup of tea, there are plenty more options around the city. The ever-lively Southbank has stalls running down the river, a variety of festive shows and even a Finnish sauna. Support independent makers at The Crafty Fox Market who will be popping up at three locations throughout December, selling ceramics, apothecary and jewellery. If you missed The Urban Maker’s fair last weekend, head to the pop-up shop which stays open until the 23rd for all things hand-made and keep an eye on their social feeds to hear about the workshops being held for you to make your own gifts.
The Horniman Museum’s market on the 16th is one for families. Pick up seasonal produce from local farmers before making a snow globe, singing carols and having tea with Santa. Everyone’s favourite, Columbia Road is holding late night shopping every Wednesday throughout December for you to browse the independent shops, galleries, delis and boutiques and Leicester Square has plenty on offer too.
Light it up
We know that nothing compares to those fairy lights lovingly draped on your tree that took hours to untangle, but for something a little different head West. Both Kew and Chiswick have created spectacular illuminating trails of lights throughout the gardens and around the buildings that make for a truly unforgettable experience.
Take it from us; you don’t need to be any good at ice-skating to enjoy it. With the beautiful backdrops of Somerset House, The National History Museum and Hampton Court, no one will be watching if you decide to cling onto the side bar.
And if money/time can afford…
Book a (very) last minute getaway. We’re dreaming of Florence, New York, Amsterdam, Prague and Copenhagen.
Turn the oven on
Whether you’re cooking up a little something for yourself, or planning on giving some homemade edible gifts this year, there’s no shortage of inspiration out there with this year’s best cookbooks.
Ottolenghi and Helen Goh’s Sweet is filled with everything you’d expect from the creative pair including Middle Eastern millionaires shortbread and fig and pistachio tartlets. Nigella is back, and better then ever, with At My Table, tempting us with meringue cookies and chocolate amaretto cake, though my favourite recipe of hers for this time of year is the Italian classic cookie, Ricchiarelli, which can be found in her older book, How to Be a Domestic Goddess.
Buy some cellophane bags, a roll of pretty ribbon and a pack of brown paper tags and make grown-up party bags, filled with homemade chocolate, fudge, Florentines, marzipan, biscotti or whatever else you fancy. Get creative with gingerbread, icing ladies and men with the names of your guests and using them as place settings, or cutting out stars, reindeer and snowflakes to decorate the tree.
There’s nothing more evocative of Christmas than the smell of warming spices filling the house. Simmer any old bottle of red with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, bay and star anise to enjoy while you work your way through the cards list. If you’re not planning on drinking (but really, it’s Christmas) just chuck some cloves, orange peel and a stalk of rosemary into a pot of water and let it bubble away while you get on with your day.
The wonderful Nigel Slater has a selection of hot festive drinks in his beautiful book The Christmas Chronicles. Take your pick and cosy up for a great read, full of stories, memoirs and recipes that will make you fall in love with winter.
Advent calendar with a difference
The novelty of ripping open a tiny paper door to reveal a Christmas pudding shaped chocolate every morning will never wear off. But, this year, we’re starting a new tradition and taking part in the Reverse Advent Calendar scheme. This simple concept encourages us to put aside an item of food (or toiletries) each day in the countdown to Christmas that will then be donated to those less fortunate.
To get involved, find yourself a box (a couple of old shoeboxes will do) and put a new item in it each day. You can then drop it off at your nearest food bank before the 25th and it will be given to someone who will otherwise have gone hungry. Contact your nearest food bank to find out what they accept and their opening hours.
Turn on Frank Sinatra’s Christmas songs and settle in for an evening of DIY by the fire. Just a few minutes on Pinterest or YouTube will get those creative juices flowing, with tutorials for homemade wreaths, decorations, candles, table runners and stockings.
Have we missed anything out? Let us know your favourite Christmas traditions and what you love doing to get into the festive spirit…
WORDS: OLIVIA WILLIAMSON
PHOTOS: RYE LONDON