The nights are drawing in and the cold is beginning to bite – in Scotland that means one thing. Time to celebrate Christmas!
Christmas is one of the most popular celebrations in the UK. Originally a Christian festival, it is now celebrated across the UK by people from all backgrounds and religions. At this time of year, cities put on lots of fun events that can help you to enjoy winter – despite the cold! There is plenty to do around Glasgow over the next few weeks, and we hope you will all join in and have a truly Scottish experience! This post outlines a few of the fun things you can look forward to between now and 25th December.
Torchlight Procession – 26th November
Kick off the festive season with a Torchlight Procession in the West End on Saturday 26th November. It is open and accessible to all who want to take part, and children are welcome. Vouchers for tickets are on sale for £10 on the festival website here – but be warned, the torches are real fire so if you’re nervous of flames (like me…) you may prefer to watch rather than take part. The procession will begin at 5.45pm at Queen Margaret Drive and last around 45 minutes. Even if you don’t plan to be involved, be warned that roads around the West End will be closed for the procession. More information about what to expect can be found here!
Glasgow Style Mile Carnival – 27th November
On Sunday 27th November, check out the Glasgow Style Mile Carnival, a festive procession of music and dance through the centre of the city. It begins at the St Enoch Centre at 2.30pm and finishes at George Square. Lots of local groups are involved in the procession, including drama groups, schools, and dance troupes! The route map is available on the website, and copied here for your convenience!
Byres Road Christmas Lights Switch On! – 27th November
If you’d rather stick to the West End, Sunday 27th November also sees the first ever Byres Road Christmas Lights Switch On! In Scotland we need festive lights to brighten up dark days. To add to the excitement, switch-ons have become big celebrations with music and performances. The Byres Road celebration will start at midday with a Christmas Market on Vinicombe Street (at the top of Byres Road opposite Waitrose); from 2pm local choirs and musicians will perform festive tunes; and then at 6pm the Christmas tree will be lit by a special guest.
Traditional Blessing of the Crib Ceremony – 7th December
If you’re interested in the more religious side of Christmas, be sure to attend the traditional Blessing of the Crib in George Square on 7th December at 6.30pm. Attendance is free and open to everyone!
Santa Dash Fun Run – 11th December
A Glasgow favourite that you won’t want to miss is the Santa Dash! On Sunday 11th December, thousands of people will dress up in Santa Claus costumes and run 5km through the city centre to raise money for charity. It starts at George Square at 10am, and is quite a sight to see!
Christmas Markets – on now!
A lot of British Christmas traditions – such as decorating Christmas trees – originated in Germany, and were brought over when Queen Victoria married a German prince in the 1800s. A more recent German import is the Christmas Market (Weihnachtsmarkt, in the original German). Christmas markets sell Christmas gifts, warm clothing, and lots of food and drinks to enjoy. Mulled wine is a popular spicy drink that you can find at markets around Christmas. Traditionally it contains alcohol (wine) but sometimes non-alcoholic versions are available, just ask.
This year, Glasgow has two Christmas Markets! Even if you don’t want to buy anything, it’s a great experience to walk around and see what’s on offer. One market can be found in St Enoch Square (10th Nov-22nd Dec), with another at George Square (26th Nov-29th Dec). Opening times and more details are available on the Glasgow Loves Christmas website.
Music and Theatre
There are dozens of festive shows you can attend throughout the season. You can find a full list here, but I’ve highlighted a few of my personal favourites below.
A very British tradition at Christmas is the pantomime. You might have seen pantomimes (or ‘pantos’) advertised around Glasgow. There are lots to choose from! Some are professional, some are amateur, but all are great fun. Panto stories loosely follow familiar fairy tales such as Cinderella, Aladdin, and Peter Pan, but have a twist. A favourite character is always the panto dame – a male actor dressed up as a woman in a comedy role! Often the main male character will also be played by a woman. There are lots of silly jokes that children love, and plenty of audience interaction where the characters speak to the children in the audience.
You will also find lots of music shows throughout November and December. Glasgow is lucky to be the home of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) which does an annual Christmas tour of Scotland. If you have children, you might want to check out the Children’s Classics Christmas Countdown on Sunday 4th December at 1pm or 3pm! Otherwise, this year the RSNO Christmas Concert will take place on 17th December at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall (near Buchanan Street).
If you are planning on staying in Glasgow over Christmas itself, you might like to see the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra on Thursday 22nd December, 7pm at City Halls. And around Glasgow, you will likely come across brass bands playing traditional Christmas music often perform for free, or in return for charity donations, in shopping centres and supermarkets.
We hope you have a fun Christmas experience in Glasgow! And remember – take lots of pictures, and you might win one of our photography contests…