Growing up in London, Christmas was very much adapted for the big city. Everything was big, loud and colourful and at every turn was a source of Christmas stimulation. Every year, Covent Garden Market would install a huge Christmas tree as well as other hugely extravagant installations perfect for touristy photos. Christmas in London truly is an event, and to an extent, a performance.
The Durham Christmas experience is a little different. It’s more intimate, and fulfils a different role. In a way, Durham is a city tailor made for Christmas, as everything about it screams festivity. From the events, to the cafes, to the University atmosphere, everything in Durham at this time of year is a Christmas lover’s dream come true.
Durham as a city is known for its independent cafes and restaurants, and rightly so. Flat White is an institution and the abundance of creative coffees and Hot Chocolates are perfect for the North-East winter cold. Yet Durham offers uniquely Christmas experiences in food also. Tango’s Christmas menu is proving a hit and the Court Inn offer delicious Christmas dinners.
Christmas specific events also add to the festive feel this time of year. The turning on of the lights on the 28th November in Market Square has become an annual event drawing huge crowds. It is one of the only nights in memory (besides the also light oriented Lumiere) that seemingly brings students and local Durham residents together in a time of celebration. This was echoed in the Carol Service last week which brought together several choirs as well as the Christian Union and filled the Cathedral to such an extent that the queue for entry extended to Owengate.
That’s not to say that the University lifestyle doesn’t make room for a whole host of Christmas activities in Durham. The college system means that Durham has a whole host of winter balls and Christmas formals, seemingly every day. Academic societies are also coming down from a period of numerous Balls, most with Christmas and winter as a theme. Yet what makes Durham Christmas so exciting is the way that the student population embrace Christmas in eccentric ways.
1st November seems to become the de facto beginning of Christmas season since Halloween is over and from that point forth, Mariah Carey is blasted through the speakers of every club in the city until term ends. Houses of livers out also often organise Friendmas dinners and secret Santa bankrupts a whole host of students come the end of term.
Becoming the antidote to a long list of Summative deadlines, and the declining temperatures, Christmas in Durham is truly the most wonderful time of the year.