A Grump’s Guide To Christmas In Birmingham

We’ve reached that most wonderful time of the year, when your breath turns to fog on the air, and the frost sparkles every morning… and my friends all start calling me “Grinch”.

Words: Philip Ellis

Don’t get me wrong; I like Christmas just fine. It’s just that, well, the rigmarole starts earlier and earlier every year, doesn’t it? No sooner have I hung up my Halloween costume than I am inundated with holly-and-mistletoe-bedecked flyers and emails. If I had my druthers, the Christmas industrial complex would be limited to the month of December; ideally, just the week leading up to the day itself.

But, as it is impossible to step outside my front door without being ambushed by twinkly lights and carols and that Mariah Carey song, I have decided to embrace the concept this year. So if you’re a fellow Christmas curmudgeon, or you have a seasonal Scrooge in your life, here are some activities to help you get into the festive spirit.

1 Watch ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’

Frank Capra’s cinematic misery-fest has become a beloved Christmas classic due to its uplifting ending, in which George Bailey is saved from his dire financial straits by the kindness of friends and neighbours. There’s also some schmaltzy Deus Ex Machina involving an angel and an alternate timeline. But in my book, even making it to the end of the film’s two-hour running time can be counted as a worthy achievement. And after sitting through the multiple myriad misfortunes of the main character, you’ll be feeling relatively fortunate — and a lot less inclined to gripe about having to brave the shopping crowds.

2 Cook Dinner for Friends

For many, spending Christmas with family can be stressful bordering on rage-inducing, as a year’s worth of passive-aggressive remarks from relatives are compressed into one meal. But everybody deserves to enjoy at least one Christmas dinner a year, so why not host your own in the weeks beforehand? Stock up on plonk and only invite people you like. You don’t even have to cook if you really don’t want to; a takeaway or supermarket canapés will do just as well (as long as there are crackers and paper hats).

3 Eat, drink and be Merry at the Christmas Markets

The food and drink are undoubtedly the best part of Christmas. Pretty much every restaurant in Birmingham offers a great festive menu, but the real treat is the markets which pop up all over the city. You can stuff yourself silly while buying handcrafted gifts at Moseley Arts Market, Highbury Christmas Fayre, and the Food and Craft Markets at the Mac. Then, of course, there is the big one; the Frankfurt Christmas Market in Victoria Square, where you can indulge in mulled wine, a stein of beer, and all kinds of spiced, sweet delights.

4 Drink Whiskey for Charity – The Old Joint Stock, December 11 & 18

Live music, mince pies, hot toddies, and even a chance of indoor snow; what’s not to enjoy here? ‘Christmas by Candlelight’ is an annual, free entry event hosted by The Old Joint Stock in St Philip’s Square on the two Sundays preceding Christmas, and it is all in aid of a good cause. This year, proceeds go to Shooting Star Chase, a local charity supporting the families of terminally ill children.

5 Fall Under a Festive Spell at the Magical Lantern Festival Botanical Gardens, 25th November – 2nd January, £12.50

The Magical Lantern Festival comes to Birmingham for the first time this year following its 2015 launch in London, blending Christmas celebrations and a time-honoured Chinese tradition to present a true feast for the senses. Visitors are guided through the gardens via a ‘lantern trail’, comprising a series of illuminations which include depictions of Father Christmas with his reindeer, penguins at the North Pole, and Birmingham’s very own Bronze Bull.

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