Sunday 17 December 2017

The A to Z of festive fun

Are you wondering how to keep the family entertained over the Christmas period? Not to worry, Chrissie Russell has all the answers

You'd better watch out: Elves counting down to Winterval in Co Waterford
You'd better watch out: Elves counting down to Winterval in Co Waterford

Chrissie Russell

From pantos and ballets to train rides and markets, there's enough festive fun going on this Christmas to keep all the family entertained.

A is for ... All aboard a festive train ride to visit Santa.

Hop on the Santa Express at Waterford and Suir Valley Railway's Kilmeaden Station any weekend this month ( or take a trip through magical woodlands for a lesson in Elf school and chance to meet reindeer at the Santa Train at Rathwood, Co Carlow (

B is for ... Beating a World Record.

Join singers at Croke Park for the Stars, Choirs and Carols event on December 19 to form the world's biggest carolling group (see for details) or slip on a Santa Hat and head down to Harbour Plaza, Dun Laoghaire, on December 21 to try and get more than 872 Santa Hats in one place (

C is for ... getting Crafty.

Kids can learn to make a paper Christmas wreath at the National Museum on Kildare Street on December 8 ( or join in the family activity area to make origami Christmas decorations at Collins Barracks until December 31. There's a free Christmas cracker workshop at Draíocht, Blanchardstown (, on December 7. Children's art cart workshops, making cards and decorations every Sunday morning in Phoenix Park ( or pick up a ready made handmade treat at the Christmas Craft Fair at Trinity Bar and Venue, Dame Street until December 22.

D is for ... Dancing on Ice – or simply trying not to fall over as you slip on a pair of skates!

You'd better watch out: Elves counting down to Winterval in Co Waterford
You'd better watch out: Elves counting down to Winterval in Co Waterford

Waterford's Winterval on Ice ( is billing itself as 'the best ice rink this side of the north pole', while iSkate at the GloHealth Christmas Wonderland at the RDS is Ireland's largest rink ( Other slippery sites include Dublin's Dundrum on Ice (, Carlow on Ice (

E is for ... Eating delicious festive fayre at sumptuous markets around the country.

Have a glass of steaming gluhwein at Galway's Continental market (running until December 22, Dublin's Dockland's Christmas Market also returns for a ninth consecutive year, running until December 23.

F is for ... Fly into Lapland a simulation of Santa's Christmas Eve sleigh ride at Atlantic Airventure in Shannon. Older children interested in flight can get behind the controls of a Boeing 737 for an arctic adventure, while younger children can opt to meet Captain Claus on the flight deck. For prices and more information see or

G is for ... Getting into the Christmas spirit with a classic festive film.

The Irish Film Institute has a super season of winter wonders lined up including It's a Wonderful Life, When Santa Fell to Earth, Bad Santa and Scrooged. See for times and prices.

H is for ... Hook Lighthouse Co Wexford, the world's oldest operational lighthouse and its annual tradition of opening its doors on New Year's Day for family fun and games and the traditional Daisy Hunt (

I is for ... Ireland's Prima Ballerina

...Monica Loughman appearing in classic Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker, at venues around Ireland from December 13 to 22 (

J is for ... Jack and the Beanstalk

Starring Alan Hughes, at Dublin's Tivoli from December 11 to January 12 ( or Jedward star in Beauty and the Beast at Dublin's Olympia, December 18 to January 5 (

K is for ... Knitting some winter woollies the Museum of Country Life's knitting circle's Christmas Socks and Stockings group in Mayo's Turlough Park on December 6 (

L is for ... Love Dublin Day

Held on December 30 this year when free arts and music events will be laid on in venues across the city (

M is for ... The Mouse Who Saved Christmas

A superb interactive show at Wexford Opera House where kids can join in to help adventurous rodent Archie get Santa's Christmas tree to the North Pole in time for the big day. December 12-22 (

N is for ... New Year's Day

...and seeing 2014 in in style at the Big Brunch on January 1. The family fun kicks off at 11am at Meeting House Square in Dublin's Temple Bar with face painting, balloon modelling, puppet and magic shows, kids disco and children's choir. ( nye)

O is for ... "Oh no, he isn't"

...and shouting out other great panto lines at performances around the country. Cork Opera House hosts Aladdin until January 18 ( and Limerick's University Concert Hall ( also has the genie-filled favourite on stage. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs plays Dublin's Gaiety until January 12 ( and Sleeping Beauty is on at the Helix until January 12 (

P is for ... Plunging below ground

... for an extra-special visit to Santa in his subterranean workshop at Aillwee Cave, Co Clare. Join in facepainting and puppet shows and discover secret passages. (

Q is for ... Quitting the city and heading for the hills.

Take a guided trek up Armagh's Slieve Gullion to celebrate the Winter Solstice and see Ireland's highest surviving passage tomb, Calliagh Berra's House. Hikes run from December 19-22 (

R is for ... Rodeo Reindeer

...and other amazing activities taking place in Kilkenny. See for more event details. Or meet Rudolph and enjoy storytelling with Mrs Claus at the Northwest Christmas Wonderland, Donegal (

S is for ... Swimming in chilly seas in the name of charity.

The 24th annual Christmas Day Swim for COPE Galway takes place at Blackrock, Galway, at midday ( A fundraising dip for St Francis Hospice is also taking place at Portmarnock ( and the Lauren Crowley Christmas Morning Swim taking place at Garrylucas Strand, Cork, are just some of the country's charity Christmas swims.

T is for ... Turning back time with the tastes, smells and sights

... of a Medieval Christmas at the National Museum of Ireland on Kildare Street. Don a warrior's helmet, meet candlemakers, play ye olde games and listen lute tunes on December 8. There's also a Christmas Through the Centuries activity at Collins Barracks throughout the month and a Winter Trail exploring ancient stone carvings and grizzly winter woollies from time gone by at Kildare Street, see for more details.

U is for ... Undoing the effects of too many mince pies

...and joining in the Kilkenny Santa Run on December 14. Come dressed as Santa or something equally festive and join in the 5km or 10km event with prizes for best costume, fastest male and female Santa and other spot prizes. (

V is for ... Viking Christmas

Waterford Winterval festival's ancient village ( or a Victorian experience at Farmleigh with storytelling, horse and carriage rides, carol singing and puppet shows until December 21 (

W is for ... Walking in the Air

... and all the other iconic music from The Snowman performed at the National Concert Hall, Dublin with the movie narrated by Pauline McLynn and special live puppet animation in a magical concert for all ages. December 20-22 (

X is for ... xxx

Smooching under the season's most festive plant after picking up a few sprigs (and other tasty treats too) at The Mistletoe Market in Ballina, Co Mayo (

Y is for ... Yuletide reflections

A thought-provoking talk for analytical adults led by Professor John Hayes and looking at the story and icons we associate with Christmas, at the Hunt Museum, Limerick on December 10 (

Z is for ... A zoo visit see Santa in his magical grotto where reindeer and elves are working hard and festive fun takes place on the lawn with Christmas arts and crafts, facepainting and tasty treats, until December 24. (

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Life Newsletter

Our digest of the week's juiciest lifestyle titbits.

Promoted Links

Editors Choice

Also in Life