From 4 Dec – 23 Jan, it’s dance music central at the MK Gallery thanks to its free exhibition Sanctuary: The Unlikely Home of British Rave. Asking how an unsuspecting Milton Keynes warehouse become one of the UK’s largest and most beloved rave venues, this examines the pioneering nightlife history of the city.
If you’ve had your fill of The Ashmolean‘s terrific Tokyo exhibition, don’t neglect their still excellent free offerings: one on Samurai gold in Tokugawa Japan (until 1 Jan), on Dante as the inventor of celebrity (until 9 Jan), and a quirky exhibit depicting dogs in the style of Ancient Greek pottery (until March).
There are still tickets available during Dec for Anish Kapoor’s exhibition, Painting at Modern Art Oxford. On until 13 Feb 2022, the exhibition has gained a lot of press for its raw and sometimes gory paintings tackling religion, violence and bodily functions…
At Waddesdon Manor, Christmas lasts until 23 Jan. Expect a stonker of a Christmas light trail, and charming wooden chalets harking fragrant festive food along with local artisan gifts. You can also enjoy Christmas dining at The Five Arrows: roast turkey, herb-crusted hake, plant-based bourguignon — sumptuous stuff indeed.
Christmas at Blenheim Palace lasts until 2 Jan and involves an after-dark illuminated trail, winter street food, and the story of The Nutcracker re-imagined within the Palace’s rooms. The bustling Christmas market likewise runs until 19 Dec.
Over at Whipsnade Zoo, Santa Paws is Coming to Town on weekends until 24 Dec. Learn about reindeer, give “a gift” (some food) to the animals, and take your little ones to meet Father Christmas.
Even ghosts celebrate Christmas, as proved by the festivities on at Oxford Castle and Prison throughout the month. Tours will be specially led by lantern light, and the shop packed with Medieval-style Christmas gifts, and kids will delight in the full-blown Santa’s grotto, on weekends and 21-23 Dec.
From 7-12 Dec you can admire the glittering lights of Bicester‘s first ever light trail, around the grounds of Garth House. There will also be festive messages and dancing snowflakes projected onto the house front.
Waterperry Gardens has a Christmas Craft & Food Market on 4-5 Dec, where you can pick up lovely handmade gifts and things to eat.
The Cotswold Distillery in Stourton is putting on its Christmas shopping event on 9-11 Dec with late night openings until 8pm including tasters, mince pies, gifts and the cafe for hot drinks, cocktails and cheese and charcuterie sharing boards.
Thame’s first Christmas Street Food Market is planned for 10 Dec by the Town Hall, 10 Dec, 3-8.30pm. Expect pizza, jerk chicken and a pan Asian food van. It’s organised by AY StrEat Meet, which also has some street food vans heading to Haddenham on 4 Dec including waffles and hot dogs.
Discover Bucks Museum is putting on a Georgian Christmas for 11 Dec only. Expect St Nick in green, costumed historians, demonstrations, games, trails and family activities. There will also be sweet treats and Georgian style hot chocolate (£8 adult, £5.50 child) 10:30-4pm.
THE THEATRE, DAHLING!
School of Rock
The award-winning (and Muddy fave) Creation Theatre has a real festive treat for you this month. How does an on-demand production of A Christmas Carol and a Hawksmoor at Home luxe steak and chips box sound? It sounds like a bloody good night in to us! Delivered Thursdays and Fridays in December.
Meanwhile, at the New Theatre Oxford, you can croon with the Jersey Boys until 4 Dec, and have a loverly time with My Fair Lady from 7-11 Dec. Then from 13 Dec – 1 Jan, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit School of Rock is the theatre’s 2021 Christmas show, and a decidedly righteous time it is, too.
Over at the MK Theatre, Britain’s Got Talent‘s favourite dance group Diversity will be doing backflips and climbing beanstalks in their Christmas pantomime Jack and The Beanstalk from 11 Dec – 8 Jan. See the rest of our top panto picks here.
Little ones will love Santa’s Elves And The Shoemaker at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre Second Space, running 17-23 Dec. From the Producers of David Walliams Mr Stink, this sees a beloved festive story brought to life with original songs.
Another great Christmas show for kids is Home in Time for Christmas at the Oxford Playhouse, a story about a Christmas Eve adventure told with puppets, on 9-31 Dec.
MUSIC TO MY EARS
On 2 Dec you can catch Damon Brown & The Spin Band at The Oxford Artisan Distillery. An outside but cosy performance of an award-winning bluesy jazz trumpeter.
Then how cute is this? On 11-12 Dec there are charming performances of music from The Snowman (and other Christmas hits) in Wantage, near Abingdon, by the Wantage Brass Brand. Bet you there isn’t a dry eye in the audience by the end.
After 2020 gave us — roll your eyes if you will — a Christmas without classical musical performances, this year we’re going crazy for choral. To start, don’t miss City of Oxford Choir’s festive concert O Magnum Mysterium on 11 Dec in the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford, for a sonorous double choir singing Bach’s Sanctus in D, carols, and more seasonal highlights.
Then there’s plenty on at the Sheldonian, Oxford, so well worth checking the full listing. We like the sound of Handel’s Messiah with Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra, on 16 Dec. You just can’t beat a bit of the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’! Then the iconic Christmas at Christ Church, also Oxford, is back and better than ever, with four concerts spread across the 15 and 17 Dec. This is a really gorgeous selection of carols, Christmas music, and nostalgic festive readings — sure to put you in the seasonal mood.
The Banbury Choral Society is putting on a Christmas performance including singing Vivaldi’s Gloria, Chilcott’s The Lily and The Rose, and a load of familiar Christmas carols. It’s at St Mary’s Church on 4 Dec 7.30-10pm and costs £5 a ticket.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Boogie your way into 2022 at Decadance, the big NYE on at Clayton’s Marlow on (surprise, surprise) 31 Dec. With the DJs switching musical decade every hour (from 70s to now), this is set to be a time-travel fest featuring nostalgic and contemporary tunes.
KIDS & FAMILY
Kids will enjoy Waterperry Gardens’ Reindeer Trail, running until 23 Dec, which also gives parents a chance to appreciate the horticulture. Give Rudolph a hello from us.
Bletchley Park is putting on some Christmas specials this year including a lost toy trail, festive afternoon tea and grotto, plus there’s a festive drop-in codebreaking workshop 18-23 and 28-30 Dec, suitable for children aged 7+, accompanied by an adult.
From 11-12 Dec you can enjoy brunch with Father Christmas at Missenden Abbey, near Amersham — which is to say, you can take your kids to meet him, enjoy a photo op, and then tuck into brunch. Don’t think the big man will be poaching eggs himself. You can also see Santa at Frosts Garden Centre, near Abingdon, until 24 Dec. Check our full guide here for where else to see the big guy.
Between 18 Dec – 3 Jan there’s a Festive Favourites Family Trail at the Oxford Natural History Museum, a great way to get festive (and educated!) with the littl’uns.
Bridge Street Community Garden in Banbury has everyone in the house – and graden – covered this Christmas, with its workshop this Sat 4 Dec, making edible Christmas decorations for birds. During the drop-in, 11am-1pm, you can make Christmas ornaments out of popcorn, raisins, seeds, and dehydrated oranges to hang outside. There’s also an outdoor option, if weather allows, to help build their planters and get them ready for planting up in the spring.
More festive fun times