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Have yourself a brilliant “Brummie” Christmas

10 November 2018 | London Calling

Christmas is a time for nostalgia, so what better way to celebrate than digging into some local history? We’ve rounded up 5 festive events in Birmingham and the West Midlands - all with a twist of tradition that would make a Peaky Blinder proud.

Hop on a 'Santa Steam Special' at Severn Valley Railway, Kidderminster   
One of the staples of a West Midlander’s childhood is a trip on the Severn Valley Railway. Running vintage steam trains between the nostalgic, 19th Century stations of Kidderminster and Bridgnorth (and many others in between), the railway is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a tourist destination this year. Over its half a century as one of the West Midlands most loved attractions, it has put on a plethora of reoccurring events, from 1940s weekends to murder mystery train rides, but one of the most popular has to be their Christmas Santa Specials! On these festive train rides throughout December, passengers will be invited on a very special steam-powered journey to Arley to meet and receive a gift from Father Christmas in his grotto. All the stations on the route will be dressed for the occasion, giving you the prime opportunity for the perfect Yule-Tide insta-pic! We especially recommend booking onto the later “Twilight Trains” at 3:30pm and 4:00pm, so that you can see the stations’ twinkling lights in their full glory as it gets dark.
 
Photo credit: Severn Railway via Facebook

Severn Valley Railway’s Santa Steam Specials depart from Kidderminster Station and run throughout December. Booking advised.

 
Create a Christmas Rag Wreath at the Back to Backs, Birmingham
The Back to Backs are some of the last surviving examples of this unique type of residential housing in Birmingham. Inside these small houses, that were, as the name suggests, literally built back to back around a communal courtyard, lived the everyday working folk of Birmingham, from around the 19th Century right up until the 1970s! As money was scarce – and as the fancy Bull Ring shopping centre wasn’t available for home furnishings! – back to back residents often took part in the traditional craft of rag rugging, which involved creating bright and colourful rugs out of old sack material and leftover cut up pieces of fabric (who said recycling was a new idea?) So, this Christmas, the Back to Back museum are encouraging you to try your hand at it yourself, and fashion a festive wreath as well other decorations using the method that other Brummies did “back in the day.” But, book quickly, as workshops are already proving popular! After all your labours, why not stop off in the museum’s vintage sweet shop for a Christmas treat. After all, as Buddy the Elf tells us, candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup are the four main food groups.
 
Photo credit: National Trust Back to Backs via Facebook

The Back to Backs are located at 55-63 Hurst Street / 50-54 Inge Street, Birmingham, West Midlands, B5 4TE. Rag wreath workshops are running throughout November and December, with availability on 1 and 15 December. Booking is essential.
 

Experience a Victorian Christmas at Blists Hill, Ironbridge
The town of Ironbridge is possibly best known as the birth place of the Industrial Revolution, so it is fitting that it is also home to a recreated town of the same era. Blists Hill is a reconstructed Victorian Town filled with authentic shops, cottages, workshops and factories, and even populated with real life Victorians (cough cough, costumed actors). Whilst this is a fascinating affair all year round, a visit to Blists Hill is even more fun at Christmas, when the whole town is decorated for the season, Father Christmas and his reindeer come to visit, traditional carol singers and brass bands are in ready supply, and there are plenty of unusual Victorian gifts on offer to buy as presents for your family – they’ll make an interesting change from the usual pairs of socks and knickers!
 
Photo credit: Blists Hill via Facebook

Blists Hill is located at Legges Way, Madeley, Telford, TF7 5UD. The Victorian Christmas event runs on 8, 9, 15 and 16 December. Booking is advised.

 
Search for Santa at the Black Country Living Museum, Dudley
The Black Country is an area made up of towns including Wolverhampton, Dudley and Walsall, and was a powerhouse of the industrial revolution. It was given its famous name because of the never-ending clouds of black smoke that were emitted from its factories. To this day, people who reside in the Black Country are very proud of where they come from, and even have some of their own words that you might not hear elsewhere in the country! If you fancy learning more about the history of the Black Country, then the best place to start is the Black Country Living Museum, an open air, reconstructed town filled with actors to give you the sense of stepping back in time into the heart of the Industrial Revolution. One of the best ways to explore the museum at Christmas time is to book onto one of their Santa Hunts, where children and adults alike are led around the town, searching for the hidden Father Christmas. Along the way, you’ll meet a motley crew of characters such as foreboding Victorian School mistresses, and the friendly blacksmith who will let you sprinkle magic dust on reindeer shoes. You’ll even get a chance to send letters up the chimney to Santa – let’s hope he receives your wishes before you find him! If you can’t make it to a Santa Hunt, but still want a Black Country Christmas experience, why not try some of the museum’s Christmas in the Home daytime events. There are activities from various different eras, such as watching plum puddings being made in a Victorian home, making newspaper chains in a Wartime household, or heading to the 1920s Limelight Cinema to have a giggle at Mickey Mouse or Laurel and Hardy.
 
Photo credit: Black Country Museum via Facebook

The Black Country Living Museum is located at Tipton Road, Dudley, DY1 4SQ. Santa Hunts are still available for booking on 24 & 25 November. Booking early is essential, as the event is extremely popular and already booked out through December. Christmas in the Home activities are taking place on 24 and 25 November, 8, 9, 15, 16 and 19 – 24 December.

 
Enjoy festive dining at Winterbourne Edwardian House and Garden, Birmingham
After all the steam trains and traipsing around finding Santa, you will probably want some time to sit and do what Christmas is all about. EAT! For a festive meal with a difference, why not head to Winterbourne House and Garden “a rare surviving example of a 20th Century suburban villa and garden” located on the University of Birmingham campus in Edgbaston. From 26th November, Winterbourne’s old kitchen will be taking bookings for group Christmas lunches with all the trimmings, as well as afternoon teas with a wintry twist, both of which can be enjoyed in a cosy setting with a real Christmas tree! If you can drag yourself away from the warm kitchen, why not walk off your lunch around Winterbourne’s Grade II listed garden, which was originally designed by the onetime lady of the house Margaret Nettlefold. Or, if you prefer to stay out of the cold, head inside the house to admire their array of Edwardian artefacts and décor inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, which includes wallpaper designed by William Morris.
 
Photo credit: Winterbourne House via Facebook

Winterbourne House and Gardens is located at 58 Edgbaston Park Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2RT. The Old Kitchen is open for Christmas Lunch and Afternoon Tea bookings from the 26th November.
 
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