If you are visiting the UK at Christmas and are wondering what us Brits do at this wonderful time of year, look no further!  We’ve put together this little guide just for you.

What do British people do at Christmas time?

The British Christmas is a hybrid of European and American approaches to Christmas. And we also have many traditions that are unique to us. We enjoy very traditional aspects of the typical European Christmas, like Christmas trees, Christmas markets and mulled wine. However, unlike much of Europe, we exchange gifts and eat our Christmas lunch on Christmas day itself, rather than Christmas Eve. We also eat an American-style Christmas lunch of turkey – but we finish it off with the uniquely British Christmas pudding!

As the big day itself approaches, anyone visiting the UK will have more than enough Christmas events to keep them busy. Let’s have a look at some of the most popular British festive pastimes.

Christmas fairs

From major cities to tiny villages across the UK, Christmas fairs will be held. Everywhere from school halls to exhibition centres will play host to these traditional fairs. A christmas fair is usually aimed at families and will involve games, competitions, activities and crafts. You might play games of skill to win sweets, or draw a ticket and see if you win a hamper of goodies (usually wholly useless, but hey, it’s Christmas!). Children may have their face painted or decorate a cookie. They’ll certainly eat their body-weight in sugar.

Fairs like these are popular and plentiful and usually raise money for local charities, so go along and do your bit to support them if possible.


The annual Christmas ‘panto’ is, perhaps, the most typically British of all Christmas traditions. These amusing and shambolic theatre shows are as popular as ever with audiences of all ages. They famously appeal to very small children (mainly due to a lot of falling over) while including enough tongue-in-cheek humour and popular culture references to keep the adults happy.

Going to see a pantomime as a non-British visitor will certainly be a eye-opener. There’s always a man dressed as a woman ( the ‘Dame’) and the audience are encouraged to shout at the actors. Give it a go!

One of the most-loved pantomimes in the South is at Windsor’s Theatre Royal. This year, it’s putting on Dick Whittington, featuring legendary children’s entertainers Basil British and Kevin Cruise.

Christmas markets

Many towns and Cities around the UK now host traditional European-style Christmas markets, complete with carols, mulled wine and traditional crafts. This is a relatively recent addition to our Christmas list of pastimes, but they are gaining popularity fast.

Here’s our choice of the best ones to visit this year:

Bath Christmas Market

You don’t need an excuse to visit the beautiful English town of Bath, but during the Christmas market season, the town is even more magical than usual.  Craftspeople sell their wares from traditional Bavarian-style wooden cabins in the town centre and there’s plenty of delicious and warming snacks and drinks on offer too. This year, the market is only running until 9 December, so you will need to get there quick. For more details, check their website.

London’s Southbank

One of London’s must-visit areas for tourists is the South Bank of the Thames. Right outside the Royal Festival Hall this year is its annual Christmas market, bringing a taste of the Bavarian Black Forest to the capital. You can visit the market right up until 27 December, so there’s plenty of time to enjoy the festivities. Why not make a full day of it by taking in everything else the South Bank has to offer and walking all the way down to the Tate Modern for a touch of world-class modern art to top of your visit.


For anyone visiting Scotland this Christmas, you’re in for a treat if you make your way to Edinburgh. The City is laying on a mountain of festive events, including a traditional Christmas market and funfair in East Princes Street Gardens.

Traditional pubs

Historic English pubs are simply enchanting at this time of year. You’ll never get a better taste of traditional Britain than when you snuggle up next to a roaring fire in an atmospheric beamed pub with a real ale, glass of wine, or hot chocolate. Check out our guide to the best Windsor pub to visit this Christmas.

Christmas shopping

Not exactly a tradition, but shopping is a necessity at Christmas. The British High Street is struggling to survive in the face of a growing reliance on online shopping but you’ll still see large numbers of panicked shoppers out and about in the days running up to Christmas, desperately trying to find that perfect gift or pick up their turkey and mince pies.

Food markets and farmers markets can be fantastic at Christmas time, with shoppers filling their baskets with produce straight from the grower or maker. Shopping at a traditional department store can also be a fantastic experience at Christmas. Windsor’s own Daniel department store offers a whole host of special events over Christmas and children can even visit Santa at his grotto in store throughout December.

Whatever you get up to when visiting the UK at Christmas, you’re bound to have a very merry time. If in doubt – just grab a mince pie and glass of something warming and you’ll find yourself very much in the British Christmas spirit!