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Start a new Christmas tradition

Our Christmas traditions are precious to us. They’re woven through the memories and hopes of Christmases past, present and future. They’re the signposts of the season; the marker that yes, Christmas is here again. But as well as observing old traditions, there’s a joy to be found in creating new ones.

The start of something special

In the run-up to Christmas, we all have a repertoire of well-worn traditions to rely on. Yet we can also build in fresh ones that create warm memories of their own. Here, we’ll share some suggestions for magical, tradition-worthy experiences – from the simple joy of a snug “crafternoon” to immersive winter wonderland days. Why not try something new this year? It could even be the start of something special.

Carols at Chichester Cathedral

Music has come to define our collective experience of events. Like food, it’s one of the ways we all celebrate the seasons, and Christmas must be the greatest season of them all. Which of us can imagine this time without our best-loved songs, carols, or tunes?

However you celebrate, it’s a joyous thing to gather together in an awe-inspiring atmosphere and listen to the musical celebrations of old. And there are few more impressive places to do this than Chichester Cathedral. As well as various musical evenings during advent, there are four Christmas carol concerts to choose from – running from Tuesday 19 to Friday 22 December – and two children’s crib services, at 2pm and 4pm on Christmas Eve.

Going digital-free

December is such a full month that we can find ourselves seeking rest. We crave precious pockets of time in which to switch off – literally. With so much going on, there’s a simple bliss in setting aside an evening entirely without phones, television, and the overwhelming distractions of the season.

So, take a little time to yourself, or to really be together. Open a nice bottle of wine, choose one of your favourite board games (or indulge in a new one for the occasion), dust off the playing cards, or tell each other stories. Luckily, our boltholes lend themselves perfectly to cocooned, convivial evenings; with many having log fires or wood-burning stoves for a cosy, rosy glow.

Prepare for Jolabokaflod

Iceland’s Jolabokaflod is a Christmas Eve tradition we can all get on board with. Loosely translated into English as ‘Christmas book flood’, it’s the practice of giving each other books on the night before Christmas, then reading them with a steaming mug of cocoa. For the book-loving people of Iceland, it’s a time to celebrate both literature and the comfort of being warm inside, whatever the winter conditions.

If you’d like to give it a try, you’ll first need to set out on a book-buying expedition. Depending on where you’re staying, there are lots of book nooks to discover locally, but some of our favourites are Kim’s Bookshops in Chichester and Arundel, the Oxfam bookshop in Chichester, and The Steyning Bookshop (a little further away, but worth the trip). For the art lover in your life, Kate also recommends the bookshop at Pallant House Gallery.

A creative crafternoon

Part of what makes Christmas so special is simply hunkering down and spending time together. And, in a season of shopping and spending, there’s something to be said for spending some of that time in slow, considered craft. So, gather your team together (whether they’re children, older family or friends) for a creative “crafternoon”: making your own Christmas gifts or decorations.

If you need to stock up on supplies, Cloth Kits in Chichester sells kits for Christmas crafting, including felt craft, embroidered baubles, and DIY crackers. The Eternal Maker in Sidlesham is also a treasure trove of craft supplies, whether you’re trying your hand at toy making, applique or crochet. Then, back at base with your project in hand, all you need to do is rustle up a mug of something hot, set out a plate of snacks, and get crafting.

Find a festive experience

There are so many ways to feel festive. Some are small, like biting into the first warm mince pie of the season, while others are big, like finding your own winter wonderland experience.

If you’re staying with us in West Sussex, immerse yourself in the spirit of the season with a visit to Arundel at Christmas. At this time of year, the entire town of Arundel comes alive with white lights, Christmas trees, and activities – truly a sight to behold. Over in east Sussex, the heritage Bluebell Railway will be running a SteamLights event: a magical steam-powered journey on an illuminated train. Or, if you’re staying on the Isle of Wight, visit magnificent Osborne (Queen Victoria’s former holiday home) for festive stories with Father Christmas.

Fine festive food

Food is a huge part of our festive experience. It holds smells and tastes that conjure up images and memories. The warm, earthy scent of baking cinnamon, the zingy snap of ginger, and the sweet, woody, unmistakable taste of cloves. They all have the power to transport us in a moment.

While you’re with us, we recommend embarking on a shop purely for Christmas “treat” items. Quite aside from the necessary pre-Christmas dash for perishables, make this your chance to have a genuinely leisurely browse, letting your taste buds lead the way. With wines, cheeses, and delicious deli items, Pallant of Arundel is a good place to start (be sure to try a mince pie while you’re there). The Hungry Guest in Petworth also has a fantastic festive selection, while Noble and Stace Chocolatiers will be selling indulgent chocolates and truffles at local Christmas fairs.

Making it memorable

Above all, Christmas is a time to carve out as your own; to create the traditions and stories that evolve year after year. If you’re staying with us during the season, do let us know how we can help to make it special. With an in-house concierge service, we’re here to share ideas, answer questions, and organise activities. Whether you’d like a restaurant booking or a well-stocked fridge, we’ll do what we can to make your days merry and bright.

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