INDEX's Alternative 12 Days of Christmas in Kent
Christmas – we all love it, don’t we? But it doesn’t happen by magic. It takes hard work to provide all the Christmas trimmings for our families plus do our bit for the community. We hope our alternative 12 days of a Kentish Christmas will provide some useful tips on how to get it all done…
Opening on 7th December, this year’s pantomime at the Assembly Hall in Tunbridge Wells is the much-loved tale of Sleeping Beauty, and stars Loose Women’s Claire Sweeney, children’s TV favourite Derek Moran and ‘panto dame’ Quinn Patrick. Assembly Hall Theatre Director JJ Almond sums up panto’s enduring appeal: “It’s very often our most magical and first-ever visit to a theatre and can inspire our life-long love of live arts. It can be fun and messy, and there are one or two jokes for the grown-ups!”
• Call the box office on 01892 530613 or visit assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk
2. Festive fizz
Many people like a drop of fizz or a warming brew over Christmas, unless they’re driving, of course! For a refreshing aperitif try Mount Vineyard Sparkling Rose or Raspberry Ghost gin from Shipbourne-based Greensand Distillery, served in a long glass, topped up with tonic. The velvety Mount Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015 is an excellent accompaniment to Christmas dinner.
For more information:
3. A digital Christmas
Christmas cards are still alive and kicking. According to the Greeting Card Association one billion paper cards are sold in the UK each year, with £50 million raised by the sale of charity cards. They’re also more decorative than a Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp message! But as long as the message comes from the heart and shows loved ones that you’re thinking about them, who cares what form the greeting takes?
4. Doing a good turn
Christmas isn’t always a time of fun and plenty. Groups such as the elderly or homeless can spend Christmas alone and/or struggle for food. Here’s how to help:
• Volunteer as a ‘Santa’s Helper’ for Abbeyfield, the charity dedicated to caring and supporting older people. ‘’Volunteers can help make Christmas special for our residents – from making cards and wrapping presents to decorating trees and serving sherry!’’ says Abbeyfield’s Chris Moore.
• Get together food, toiletries and household items for Tunbridge Wells-based Nourish Community Foodbank’s 12 Days of Christmas appeal or volunteer to pack food parcels. Nourish provides short-term emergency provisions and support on a referrals-only basis for families in crisis, issuing a maximum of 12 bags to a family or individual in any one year. Fundraising and Marketing Trustee, Sarah Raine says: “Christmas can be a stressful time – losing a job, bereavement, unpaid benefits, domestic abuse – all these factors can trigger a crisis for families. We continue our year-long support throughout the Christmas period.”
5. Festive markets
Christmas and farmers’ markets selling festive treats, gifts and local seasonal produce are now firmly established as part of the winter calendar. They take place all over Kent, including Ightham Mote (1st-2nd December) and Sevenoaks Vine Gardens (8th-10th December) while the Tunbridge Wells Christmas Farmers’ Market is scheduled for 22nd December (there is also a market on 8th December).
6. Alternative traditions
Christmas is not a religious holiday for Kent and Medway’s 19,000 Muslims, 14,300 Sikhs, 13,700 Hindus and 2,000 Jews (source: ONS 2011 census). Some volunteer to work over the festive period although many get together with loved ones and give and receive gifts. This month, the Jewish community celebrates the eight-day festival of Hanukkah, commemorating defeat over the Syrians and the revival of the Temple of Jerusalem.
7. Making sweet music
The festive season is a great excuse for beginners and seasoned singers alike to stretch their vocal chords. Singing, especially in groups, can also help with a range of physical, mental and emotional problems, including isolation. Check out your local church choir, the Tunbridge Wells Tuneless Choir, the Hospice in the Weald Choir or the Sevenoaks Community Choir – the list of singing possibilities is endless.
For more information:
• Tuneless Choir Tunbridge Wells, visit facebook.com/tunelesschoirtunbridgewells
• Hospice in the Weald Choir, visit hospiceintheweald.org.uk
• Sevenoaks Community Choir, visit singingnationcommunity.org
8. The gift of giving
Have some time or money to spare for a local deserving cause?
• Buy a disadvantaged child a gift via The Giving Tree at Bluewater (visit heart.co.uk).
• Donate to a food bank or give groceries and unwrapped toys to The Salvation Army’s Christmas Present Appeal. They also need volunteers to pack and deliver parcels. For your nearest branch, visit salvationarmy.org
• Give food and treats, blankets or your time to animals in need via charities such as the Edenbridge-based Last Chance Animal Rescue.
For more information, visit lastchanceanimalrescue.co.uk or call 01732 865530.
9. All the trimmings
Now to the important business – seasonal food, and, of course, Christmas trees!
Festive Local Fare
• Turkeys remain a staple of most Christmas dinners but cooking it to perfection can be tricky. “With modern ovens there’s no need for roasting for hours at high temperatures,” says Becky Howe from Tenterden-based John Howe Turkeys. The company’s free-range turkeys are supplied with cooking instructions and recipes, a pop-up cooking timer and full money-back guarantee.
• Shake up your festive menu with Bonnington-based Simply Ice Cream’s Christmas Pudding or Mince Pie flavoured ice creams, snack on roasted Kentish Cobnuts from Platt and nibble on Winterdale Shaw cheese. “Store it in wax paper at around 8°C and serve at room temperature,” advises Winterdale Cheesemaker’s Robin Betts.
• Looking for something different? Check out the recently launched Kent Food Trails’ Tenterden Wine & Vineyard Trail where you’ll taste cheese, ice cream, Chapel Down wine and stock up on heritage potatoes, luscious apples, organic meat and other items from other local food and drink suppliers. The fresh air and exercise will blow away the cobwebs and kids will love the Santa Special Railway.
For more information:
• John Howe Turkeys, call 01580 291415 or visit johnhoweturkeys.com
• Simply Ice Cream, call 01233 720922 or visit simplyicecream.co.uk
• Winterdale Cheeses, call 01732 820021 or visit winterdalecheese.co.uk
• Potash Farm, call 01732 882734 or visit kentishcobnuts.com
• Kent Food Trails, visit kentfoodtrails.co.uk
Deck the halls
Move over Norway and Germany! According to the British Christmas Tree Growers’ Association (BCTGA), Kent is a good area for growing Christmas trees and you can search its website for local suppliers.
Sevenoaks-based Stonepitts Farm sells the popular Norway Spruce or Nordman Fir in several sizes plus tree stands, mistletoe and holly wreaths. It also advises on maintaining freshness and minimising needle loss.
10. Staying safe
As ever, the emergency services – the South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECamb) NHS Foundation Trust, Kent Fire & Rescue Service (KFRS), and Kent Police – are on alert this Christmas. SECamb is urging people to keep 999 for emergencies only, use alternatives including NHS 111 and check out its tips for keeping well. “People can help us by planning ahead and following our advice to stay safe and well this Christmas,” says Director of Operations Joe Garcia.
The KFRS has launched a safety film featuring the Grinch, a character created by Dr Seuss, to educate people about staying safe during the festivities.
11. Christmas worship
From Advent to Christmas Day, Kent’s churches and schools will recreate and celebrate the birth of Jesus. Most churches hold family crib services on Christmas Eve, followed by Midnight Mass (usually with carols) and a Eucharistic service on Christmas Day, often with the joyous peal of bells. Some churches, such as Tonbridge’s St Peter & St Paul and St Augustine’s in Tunbridge Wells, will hold several services on Christmas Day.