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December in London: Not a panto in sight!

3 December 2014 | Josh Barrie

50 Star Wars Stormtroopers, Darth Vadar, and R2D2 will march from Cutty Sark to Devonport House

If you don’t know all the magical Christmas fairs, food festivals, and other festive treats going on in December already, I can only assume you’re a big fan of sheep-sounding humbugs, or made of cardboard. Obviously this month’s mainly about roasted chestnuts and fairy lights, but here are a few other, slightly different seasonal excitements for you to enjoy.

The first event this month is something we’re particularly looking forward to. Anything involving cats, and happening nearby, is likely to excite!

Those of you on Twitter will know the glorious @MYSADCAT handle – social media’s answer to the world of feline melancholy. Ever insightful and incredibly funny, it’s the work of writer Tom Cox, and on Friday December 5 he’s venturing up from the West Country to talk about his hugely popular Twitter creation.

The author of seven books – three about cats – Tom’s also going to be reading and performing some of his narratives live. It’ll be humorous despondency transposed into actuality. It’s interesting when our virtual and real worlds collide. It’s going on at The Bookseller Crow in Westow Street, 7-9pm. Tickets are £3, and there’s alcohol.

December looks set to be a funny month, because a week or so later, on Sunday December 14, over 40 pantomime horses are going to race along Greenwich’s streets.

The London Pantomime Horse Race is now in its fifth year and this one looks better than ever. Always popular with the stars, apparently the likes of Arthur Smith and Bill Bailey are going – but the most revered, and applicable, is the fact horse man extraordinaire John McCririck hosts. He’ll be commentating throughout the day.

“Yes, I have broadcast from The Grand National, The Cheltenham Festival and The Epsom Derby, but the crowning jewel in my 33-year career will definitely be the London Pantomime Horse Race,” he said in an interview.

This year there’s also a sci-fi edge; as if it needed any more weirdness. Beforehand, 50 Star Wars Stormtroopers, Darth Vadar, and R2D2 will march from Cutty Sark to Devonport House, where everything will kick-off.

There’s a post-race party at the nearby Greenwich Tavern, and going along to watch the galloping madness is free.

This exhibition opened at the end of November, but we refused to take note because anything Christmas-themed before December is premature in our opinion. Now, though, everything’s fine – and this, now a tradition in itself, is well worth a visit if you’ve not been before.

At the Geffrye, the Museum of the Home, a rather Dickensian showcase has captured four centuries of festive interiors. Christmas Past: 400 Years of Seasonal Traditions in English Homes, is an engaging look at how people here dress up their front rooms in celebration.

The museum says its “eleven period living rooms are transformed with authentic festive decorations, lighting, music and greenery to give visitors a magical glimpse into how Christmas has been celebrated in English middle-class homes over the past 400 years.”

And organisers add: “Step back through the centuries and discover the origins and meanings of some of the rich and vibrant traditions of Christmas past, from feasting, dancing and kissing under the mistletoe to playing parlour games, hanging up stockings, sending cards, decorating the tree and throwing cocktail parties.”

From Victorian, to Georgian, to the present day, each setting paints a very different scene through years of change – each bound by a single theme. It’s free, on now, and runs until Sunday January 4.

And so, Christmas Day will soon arrive – presents and turkey, wine and happiness. But if you haven’t been to the Peter Pan Cup before, maybe 2014’s the year?

If you’re not aware of one of the country’s craziest traditions, the annual contest sees members of the Serpentine Swimming Club (one of the oldest swimming clubs in the country) compete in a 100-metre race at Hyde Park. It’s been going on since 1864 and shows no sign of stopping.

The winner is awarded a gold medal, and since 1904 are also given a trophy – first donated by Peter Pan author JM Barrie, whose famous play debuted in the same year. It’s a fitting accolade for a serious competition, which takes a lot of training to be able to cope with the icy water.

It’s open to those willing to leave the house for a 9am start and takes place on the south side of the lake. More info here.

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