December sees London in a festive mood as the city gears up for Christmas. From carols, concerts and Christmas lights to pantomimes and ballets there's enough to keep you going through the whole of this chilly winter month.
1st December 2011 - 6th January 2012
Since 1947, stately Trafalgar Square receives a majestic Norwegian Christmas Tree as an annual gift from the people of Oslo, thanking Britain for its support and friendship during World War Two. The enormous tree is a popular seasonal tourist attraction, particularly in the fortnight leading up to Christmas, when each evening (from 5pm to 9pm), a different choir gathers there to sing carols and raise money for a range of voluntary or charitable organisations. Applications for the 2011 Christmas program will be available from September 2011. Passers-by are welcome to come and listen to the carols in the square, and even join in the festive cheer. Nelson's Column is decorated with Norwegian white lights and the tree is illuminated from noon until midnight until the Twelfth Night of Christmas in early January. The tree actually goes up in late November if you want to see it in all its naked evergreen glory. This year, the dates have yet to be confirmed for the lighting of the Christmas Tree (preceded by some carols) so keep checking the link below for the latest information.
2nd December 2011 - 4th December 2011
Heston Blumenthal, Jean-Christophe Novelli and Antony Worrall Thompson were just some of the top chefs at last year's Taste Of Christmas, the fabulous foodie event of the festive season. Joining them were some of London's top restaurants including The Modern Pantry, the brilliant Benares and critically acclaimed Eastside Inn. Expect an equally star-studded guestlist this time around as you get the chance to shop for top seasonal ingredients and to inject some inspirational spark into your family's tried and tested Christmas classics. As well as a multitude of food stalls (with a centralised home delivery service available), there are 12 pop-up restaurants hosted by well known London names like The Cinnamon Club, Villandry and Borough Market's Roast. It's perfectly possible to complete all your Christmas food shopping under one roof at the ExCel, as long as you ignore the distractions of tastings and the food demonstration theatre.
3rd December 2011 - DATE TBC
It's one of those crazy British Christmas traditions that no one can quite fathom: every year, swimmers around the UK take a festive plunge in icy waters all in the name of a bit of bravado and exhilaration (not to mention hypothermia). The annual freezing dip into Parliament Hill Lido takes place on the first Saturday of December. The Plum Pudding Plunge is the first swim of the season organised by the Outdoor Swimming Society, who organise each year festive swims as far away and chilly as Scotland. With mince pies to dispel the inevitable goosebumps, a hot tub, chattering teeth and general merrymaking, all swimmers, donning Christmas hats, will be encouraged to attempt two widths of the lido, with the most intrepid aiming for four or six. Swimmers can register for the event, which costs £15, at www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com. Make sure you bring some warm clothes, a woolly hat, a swimming costume / trunks and a lot of courage. They say it's good for the circulation... DATE TO BE CONFIRMED
3rd December 2011 - TBC
You're familiar with the egg and spoon race. Well how about the Great Christmas Pudding Race? Covent Garden Piazza swells with spectators as about 150 contestants don fancy dress and race around a course strewn with flour-filled balloons, foam jets and other obstacles - all while trying to balance a Christmas pudding on a flimsy plate! The race has been going on every year since 1980 and it raises money for Cancer Research. At this time of year Covent Garden is a great place to be, with shops full of Christmas decorations and street entertainers putting on some diverting shows before and after the main event. The perfect way to break up a day of Christmas shopping in Covent Garden's collection of stylish stores. See www.xmaspuddingrace.org.uk for details. DATE TO BE CONFIRMED
10th December 2011
Following a sold-out performance in 2010, four acclaimed soloists join the London Philharmonic Choir in full 18th-century costume to perform Handel's grand choral masterpiece in an evocative candle-lit style setting at Royal Festival Hall. Messiah is the Baroque composer's most famous creation and amongst the most popular works in Western choral literature, presenting Jesus's life and its significance according to Christian doctrine. It has become something of a tradition to perform Handel's greatest and most popular oratorio during Advent, with the famous 'Hallelujah' chorus ringing out through churches and concert halls throughout the lead-up to Christmas. Here at this one-off Southbank Centre evening performance, Oliver Gooch conducts the Mozart Festival Orchestra, with vocal performances from Helen-Jane Howells (soprano), Julia Riley (mezzo-soprano), Nicky Spence (tenor) and James Oldfield (bass).
16th December 2011 - 18th December 2011
The most successful touring show in entertainment history is set to fill out the Hammersmith Apollo for five performances this December. Michael Flatley's Lord Of The Dance has to date played in over 65 different countries and territories, to over 7 million people on every single continent. The world-renowned Irish dance extravaganza focuses on themes of Good and Evil, as Little Spirit travels through time to help the Lord of the Dance protect his people from the dastardly challenge of Don Dorcha, the Dark Lord. The show, described by the Los Angeles Times as a "show piece extravaganza", features more then 150,000 taps per performance as it transports the audience to a mythical time and place, capturing hearts in a swirl of movement, precision dancing, artistic lighting and pyrotechnics.
24th December 2011
Built by Sir Christopher Wren after the fire, St Paul's Cathedral is viewed by many as the spiritual home of Great Britain. It's also a very popular place to experience the more traditional side of Christmas and escape the mad rush that threatens to overtake us all as December 25th approaches. Demand is so great that St Paul's puts on a series of Christmas celebrations throughout December but the high point has to be the Midnight Mass service. The cathedral's famous dome, which peaks over the top of London's skyline from miles around, fills with the soaring sounds of the Cathedral Choir. In candlelit, majestic surroundings in the middle of the city, this is the perfect place to usher in Christmas Day before wrapping up warm and making your way home through the magically deserted streets. All you need is a fresh coating of snow to settle...
25th December 2011
This lot are a hardy bunch but tradition is tradition and members of the Serpentine Swimming Club have been plunging themselves into the lake's icy waters every Christmas Day since 1864. At temperatures of below four degrees Celsius in winter, the swimmers will want to get a wiggle on so it's lucky that they are all in hot pursuit of the prestigious Peter Pan Cup. The name of the 100-yard race dates back to 1904 when J.M Barrie, the creator of the boy who refused to grow up, presented the first cup. While most of us are still tucked up in bed or delving into our stocking as the competitors line up (and pretend not to shiver) for their 9am start, a jolly crowd gathers to witness the spectacle. It's a great way to get some fresh air on Christmas morning and you'll feel like you've earned your post-lunch snooze. Behind you, Hyde Park offers a wonderful wintry landscape and, if you want to continue the Peter Pan theme, why not nip across to see the famous statue in Kensington Gardens. It was so cold and snowy last Christmas that the race had to be cancelled - although some intrepid souls still broke holes in the ice in order to have a quick dip.
31st December 2011 - 11.50pm
The annual New Year's Eve Fireworks display, launched from the foot of the London Eye and from rafts on the Thames, is visible from most of central London: the basic rule is that if you can see the London Eye, you'll be able to see the show. They cram enough firepower for an hour-long display into ten explosive minutes, lighting up the sky for miles around. The best views are from Victoria Embankment, the South Bank, and Westminster Bridge and Waterloo Bridge. Hungerford Bridge is closed after 8pm and there's also no entry to Westminster Bridge after this time. Go to www.london.gov.uk/newyearseve for full details.
London Calendar 2011
Highlights include Cirque du Soleil's new show, Rebecca Hall's National Theatre debut in Twelfth Night and the return of Dutch mus...January 2011
Don't forget it's Valentine's Day on the 14th - but there's plenty more going on this month besides, from the muddy pitch of Six N...February 2011
With winter on the way out, March's Ideal Home Show and the Country Living Fair are great occasions for a spring clean. Elsew...March 2011
We all get an extra bank holiday this year thanks to the much-hyped Royal Wedding on Friday 29th April. Other big d...April 2011
The Chelsea Flower Show and the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park get London's summer season in full swing in a month book-ended b...May 2011
It's all fun runs, flower shows and festivals for July giving Londoners ample opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. Highlights includ...July 2011
August is the time when London's parks fill up with sunbathers, lidos come into their own, the banks of the Thames lend themselves...August 2011
Late summer fireworks light up the river at the Mayor's Thames Festival, while Hyde Park and the Royal Albert Hall sing in unison ...September 2011
Ghosts and ghouls come out to play for Halloween at the end of the month but before that in October there are some of&nb...October 2011