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Aberdeen’s ‘Countdown to Christmas’ Winter Festival

A list of the things to do in Aberdeen from now to the end of the festive period

By Daniel Hesp

Courtesy of Aedan Brennan

The Aberdeen Winter Festival this year will be important in re-cementing the city’s long celebrated tradition. A prominent event in the yearly calendar, the festival aims to promote Christmas in a fun and unique way every year. This year, with crowd events made possible by the vaccinated public and sophisticated safety measures, it is especially important that the Festival be a centre of warmth and joy this Christmas. In that spirit, Aberdeen City Council, in conjunction with Codona’s and Aberdeen Inspired, have put together a jam-packed selection of festivity for locals. So, here are the activities on the roster in the coming weeks:

Firstly, one of the more gleefully anticipated occasions of the build up to Christmas is the switching on of the Christmas tree on the 18th of November. The tree itself will represent the long-established bond that Aberdeen has with its twin city in Norway, Stavanger. The Deputy Mayor of Stavanger, Dagny Sunnanaa Hausken will carry out the ceremony alongside the Aberdeen Lord Provost, Barney Crockett, in observation of the relationship between Stavanger and Aberdeen. Observers will be accompanied and entertained by music from ‘The Sweet Adelines and the ‘Aberdeen Grammar School Vocal Trio’, who will be performing a selection of Christmas Carols in the spirit of the event.

Next, on the 29th of November the St Nicholas Kirkyard Nativity Scene will open. This shall run for a week, and the crib will be blessed by members of Aberdeen Churches Together in support of the true meaning of Christmas. Amidst the dazzling light, the scene functions as an important reminder of the warmth and generosity that is needed at this time of year. When you visit the Nativity Scene, spare a thought for those all over the world that are suffering. My fellow writer for the newspaper, Skye MacDonald, covers this wonderfully in an article about the collective difference that can be made if we all contribute individually. Through the Shoebox Appeal, and many other projects like it, you can immeasurably improve someone else’s Christmas.

From the 1st of December until Christmas Eve, you can take part in the Twelve Days of Christmas Sculpture Trail. The twelve days aspect refers to twelve hand-carved totem poles, created by local Chainsaw carver, Gary Shand, that can be found in solving the Christmas puzzle. A great feature this year is the reward that participants can claim upon completing the trail. ‘The Sweet Haus’ stall in the Christmas Village offers a free treat for the Christmas detectives that can complete the puzzle. If you’re interested in free stuff and a bit of a challenge, you can download a sheet from the council website and get quizzing.

An event that is not strictly part of the Christmas Winter Festival (but we thought deserved a mention) is HAAN Design Pop-Up in the Aberdeen Art Gallery. This highly original display aims to showcase and celebrate unique small businesses and independent artists. The exhibition, which includes jewellery, illustration and ceramics, will be open from the 2nd to the 5th of December, so be sure to check it out while you’re in the area and support some very cool local art.

Which brings us back to the Winter Festival. One of the key returning parts of the festival is the Christmas Village, that would make an incredible HQ for your forays into town, or for dinner in one of the nearby restaurants. Adrian Watson, Chief Executive of Aberdeen Inspired said in a recent interview with the Council that,

"The much-anticipated Christmas village will bring some much-needed festive cheer to Aberdeen and encourage visitors to come into the city centre to enjoy a fun day out alongside shopping, having dinner or drinks and soaking up the lights, music and atmosphere."

The Village includes an open-air ice rink, Ferris wheel and many other attractions. It also offers a selection of local craft stalls, as well as festive food and drinks. If you fancy visiting the Village and experiencing the atmosphere that Mr Watson describes, you will have until mid-January to do so. This is perfect if you don’t get the chance to see it all in one day, as the much-loved feature will be present from the 18th of November right through the rest of the year.

Mr Watson elaborated,

"Every weekend in the run up to Christmas will see a wide range of stallholders selling artisanal produce and unique gifts and we encourage shoppers to support the city centre by shopping local this year."

If you heed the Aberdeen Inspired CEO’s words, and decide to do some last-minute Christmas shopping around centres such as Union Square and Bon Accord, you won’t be shopping alone.

You can also sing along to carols from the Bon Accord Silver Band and Capriccio Choir at the Christmas Carol Concert, held in the David Welch Winter Gardens. This takes place on the 18th of December and it’s the perfect way to get into the festive spirit right before Christmas. By this stage, most of our assessments will be over and we’ll be looking ahead to Christmas Day with excitement.

So, what better way to get in the Christmassy mood than with some Christmas music?

Finally, another occasion to look forward to is the Hogmanay celebration at the end of the year. The events will feature live music from the ‘Kopycat Killers’ band, featuring all the classics such as ‘Somebody told Me’ and, of course, ‘Mr. Brightside’. The stage will also host a street party on Schoolhill, presenting not only Northsound One DJ, Lauren Mitchell, but also live music by the Silver City Soul Revue. As if all that weren’t enough, the Hogmanay Ceilidh at the beach ballroom will provide you with some traditional entertainment with music from the Hipflask Ceilidh band. The ticket price includes stovies and a glass of prosecco to ring in the New Year!

So, going by previous years when the festivities have been incredibly fun and exciting, I would encourage you to journey down to the Marischal College and spend an evening at any one of the events on offer. With Christmas around the corner, it may be nice to spend some time relaxing and having a good time. One of the things I love about Christmas is that, amid the pressures of everyday life, it invites an excuse to be carefree and stress-free (once the presents are taken care of, of course!)


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