• Mousehole Christmas Lights
  • Shopping on Fore Street, St Ives
  • Christmas Markets

A Cornish Christmas

Are you thinking about spending your Christmas holidays in Cornwall? There’s a lot going on in Cornwall in December 2023, from festive fairs to train-riding Santas. We’ve gathered together a few of our favourite festive events in Cornwall – read on to get that tingly, Christmassy feeling…

Christmas fairs and markets

If you love browsing for unique gifts, with a cup of hot chocolate or mulled wine in hand, come along to one of Cornwall’s Christmas markets.

Truro has a Christmas market every day from 29 November 2023 until Christmas Eve. The varied stalls take over Lemon Quay for the month, so if you’re in Cornwall in December, you’ll definitely be able to visit at least one Christmas market! Wednesday is Truro’s late night shopping evening, when the market stays open until nine.

Padstow hosts one of Cornwall’s largest Christmas markets. This four-day celebration runs from 7th to 10th December in 2023 and promises celebrity chef food demonstrations, live music and a parade as well as stalls. As you’d expect, the street food is amazing…

Other markets to check out this December include Porthleven, Falmouth and Fowey and if you’re in Cornwall on 22-23 November, Cornwall Christmas Fair at the Eden Project is an excellent place to pick up some original Cornish gifts.

Christmas shopping in Cornwall

Speaking of Christmas shopping, where are the best places to stock up on stocking fillers in Cornwall? Our local town, St Ives, is the perfect place to shop for art lovers, while nearby Penzance is the go-to town for unusual vintage finds and Cornish crafts.

The largest shopping destinations, Falmouth and Truro, have a good mix of smaller local shops and high street favourites, along with small independent galleries. Fowey has some lovely places to buy clothes, or try Padstow for delicious foodie gifts.

Cornish Christmas traditions

The Montol Festival in Penzance is a revival of traditional Cornish midwinter celebrations. It’s held every December, with a week of traditional mummers’ plays, guising and other events culminating in the Montol Eve procession on the 21st. Look out for spectral horse Penglaz, the pagan star of Penzance’s midsummer festival, Golowan. You can also catch mummers’ plays in Padstow on Boxing Day and New Year.

Lights play a big part in festive traditions and in Cornwall, Mousehole’s the place to be. Mousehole Lights attracts visitors from across the country who come to see the whole village and harbour festooned with lights and to enjoy the party atmosphere in the narrow streets. 

If you can, visit on 23rd December on Tom Bawcock’s Eve, when the village celebrates the heroic fisherman who once saved Mousehole from famine. There’s a lantern parade and the famous stargazy pie is served at the local inn.

Over the last few years, a new tradition has developed across Cornwall’s beaches: the Christmas dip. Hardy souls plunge into the sea on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year’s Day, usually for charity and almost always wearing Santa hats and tinsel. Look out for events at St Ives, Sennen, Penzance, Bude and Newquay.

Cornish Christmas music and shows

Those haunting first bars of “Once in Royal David’s City” are a sign that Christmas is truly here. There are carol services across the county in December, with a choice of evocative Christmas events and services in beautiful Truro Cathedral. In 2023, look out for the annual Big Sing or the Viennese Candlelight concert – and of course, there’s the much-loved Nine Lessons services on the 23rd and 24th, followed by Midnight Mass. 

If you’re late night shopping in Truro on the 13th, call into Hall for Cornwall where there will be carols by candlelight in the theatre bar.

Sticking with Truro’s recently refurbished theatre, if you love a panto (and oh yes, you do!), this year it’s family-favourite show, Peter Pan, starring the Kernow King as Captain Hook.

Where to meet the man himself

Father Christmas is certainly busy around here this year and there’s a great choice of places to see Santa in Cornwall in 2023. Our favourite place to meet him is in our local town, St Ives, where he always arrives by lifeboat. Come down to the Wharf on 13 December to wave him in.

Old St Nick does love trying out different forms of transport, including the Bodmin and Wenford Steam Railway. “Santa by Steam” runs every weekend in December plus the 21st and 22nd – make sure you book in advance. Father Christmas also hops on the train at Lappa Valley, near Newquay.

He finally takes the weight off his boots at several National Trust properties across the South West. Join Santa for stories in the drawing room at Trerice (also near Newquay), or meet the Victorian Father Christmas in his cabin at Lanhydrock (Bodmin).

Santa also tours the Eden Project, the Lost Garden of Heligan, the Shipwreck Treasure Museum at Charlestown and Newquay Zoo.

Christmas spectaculars

For a magical festival experience, Christmas at the Eden Project is a must. Have a go on their ice skating rink (or simply admire others’ skating skills while enjoying a laced hot chocolate) and explore the biomes at night. There’s food and music across the site, along with beautiful displays of lights and decorations. 

The Tunnel of Lights event at the Shipwreck Treasure Museum is a magical trip out for the family, or enjoy walking around the Lost Garden of Heligan at night, admiring the lights. As ever, the National Trust pulls out all the stops over the festive season, from Christmassy treats in the tea rooms to the spectacular garland at Cotehele. Here’s what’s on at Christmas in the National Trust in Cornwall.

Book a cosy Cornish cottage for Christmas

Are you spending your Christmas holidays in Cornwall? Treat yourself to a cosy Cornish holiday cottage, which makes the perfect base for exploring the county’s Christmas events. Curl up by the woodburner with a mug of mulled Cornish cider, listening to the waves outside and feeling very pleased that you’re here.

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