Mark your diaries

Jack and the Beanstalk is the panto at Everyman Cork .

From pantos to festive markets, Ed Power has the best Christmas events for kids and grown ups.

IT’S beginning to a look a lot like… well, you know. With Christmas less than a month out, the seasonal madness is already underway. But there is more to this time of year than present buying, mince pie scoffing and office party dodging.

Christmas offers a cornucopia of beguiling distractions — whether you are a wide-eyed child or a less wide-eyed grown up. Here are some Christmas 2013’s must-attend events.

Believe At Fota

One of Ireland’s best known wedding planners Peter Kelly – aka ‘Franc’ – applies his special touch to the woodlands surrounding Cork Hotel at Fota Island. Assisted by ‘magical’ helpers, Kelly has created a Santa’s grotto, where kids (and parents) can arrange to meet the man himself. The Believe experience also includes Christmas markets and a train ride through what the organisers describe as the ground’s Narnia-like woods.

Details: Until Christmas Eve, €12.50 per adult, €20 per child over 12 months.

The Snowman, National Concert Hall, Dublin
Raymond Briggs’s beloved Christmas movie about a lonely snowman and the boy he befriends receives a live makeover, with accompaniment from the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and narration by actress Pauline McLynn. The show also includes Christmas songs from singer Eimear Quinn and live shadow puppet animations by Matthew Robins, who performs along to excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.

Details: Friday, Dec 20 – Sunday, Dec 22, €20 adult, €15 child.

Cork on Ice

Little penguins, special kiddies skating area, ice hockey, figure skating, student and disco nights... Cork on Ice at Mahon Point Shopping Centre has become a winter must-do.

Details: Continues until Jan 26, prices start at €11.25.

Christmas Art Club, Glucksman, Cork

Decorate your house with hand-made crafts — created by your child. From painting to drawing, sculpture to collage, this hands-on course introduces children aged 7 to 12 to different ways of making art in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

Details: Saturday, Dec 12, 11am-3pm, €40 — booking essential.

Jack and the Beanstalk, Everyman Cork

Panto returns to Cork’s oldest theatre. Lee Matthews plays Jack, April Kelly is the love interest and there will be a limelight stealing turn by Jim Mulcahy as Mammy Dawe. Also promised: exotic monsters, magic beans, a very suspicious looking beanstalk and, of course, an angry giant.

Details: Dec 7-Jan 12, €23-26.

Beauty and the Beast, Olympia, Dublin

They’re not quite the megastars they used to be but, in panto-land, Jedward remain a draw. For their latest pantomime they are joined by Linda Martin and Ciara Lyons, a star of Fair City and The Clinic. There will be the usual singing and dancing — and lots of trademark Jedward pratfalls too.

Details: Dec 18–Jan 5, €25.

Lapland Experience at Ardmore Pet Farm

Hugely popular all year around, at Christmas the pet farm truly comes into its own. Children can visit Santa and Mrs Claus (residing in her own cottage she will give kids lessons in how to make snow). The farm’s indoor play area is transformed into a ‘snowy landscape’. Plus, a Christmas crib with live animals.

Details: Until Dec 24, adults €8, children €18.50.

Santa’s Workshop at Ailwee Cave

The country’s largest cave complex receives a seasonal makeover. Santa will be installed in a beautifully appointed workshop (okay, ‘work cave’) dispensing presents to kids. The fun begins before you’ve even met Mr Claus, with a special ‘Santa’ train conveying visitors to his grotto. Visitors receive complementary entry to the Burren Birds of Prey Centre.

Details: Until Dec 22, €33.

Santa Express at Waterford and Suir Valley Railway

This unique narrow gauge railway runs 10km along the old Waterford-Dungarvan line. Through December there will be an additional incentive to visit — after your 20-minute journey, you will be whisked to Santa’s railway cottage, for a chat, a ‘Christmas wish’ — and perhaps a present. The Santa Express runs at weekends until Christmas Day, with an additional service Monday, Dec 23.

Details: Until Dec 23, adults €6, children €15.

Live Animal Crib

Each December a little bit of the countryside comes to Dublin’s Mansion House. Every morning farmyard animals are brought to the mayoral residence where they are housed in a specially constructed stable designed to look like a Christmas crib. They are returned to their real home, a south Dublin farm, at night.

The ‘crib’ is open daily with street entertainment and face-painting organised for the Dec 10 launch (at 10.30am).

Details: Until Christmas Eve, 11 am-6pm (closes 2pm Christmas Eve), admission free.

Aladdin Comes To Cork and Limerick

Aladdin will be the twelfth pantomime production under the direction of Bryan Flynn at Cork Opera House. Beginning Dec 12, Llandyll Gove and Karen Tynan, stars of the summer hit Grease, take the main roles.

Meanwhile, Twink heads the cast as the much-loved panto also hits the mid-west.

Playing ‘Widow Twinkee’ (boom, boom), she will be joined by Voice of Ireland finalist Richie Hayes (cast as Wishee Washee). The organisers promise the highest production values, in a show boasting “bells, whistles and magic lanterns”.

Details: Cork Opera House from Dec 12; University Concert Hall, Dec 20-Jan 5

Christmas Wonderland, RDS, Dublin

Featuring Ireland’s largest ice-rink, a Santa-themed circus, open-air markets, an animatronic Christmas grotto and performances by the Custard Pie puppet company.

Details: From December 6.


Santa Charity Run, Kilkenny

Several hundred Santas will hit the streets for Kilkenny’s third Christmas charity level. Athletes of all shape, size and fitness level are welcome. Look good in a red suit and white beard and you’re in.

Details: December 15, Kilkenny, Castle Park.

Docklands Christmas Festival, Dublin

Running across 12 days, the festival welcomes traders from Ireland and the Continent and features a selection of seasonal gifts and foods. Three weeks out, organisers say trader spaces are almost booked out. A short walk from the city centre, in previous years entering the festival site at the docklands was like stepping into a Christmas card scene, with twinkling lights and good cheer ubiquitous.

Details: December 12 -23, Dublin Docklands.

Orson Welles Christmas Carol

Billed as a “live radio play” , this new production tells the true story of Orson Welles’ staging of a Christmas Carol in New York on Christmas Eve 1938. With Welles’ company having just lost their Scrooge actor, they must scramble to find a replacement and survive other eleventh hour setbacks. The family friendly performance is at the Powerscourt Theatre in Dublin.

Details: December 20 — 22 euro 15.

Christmas With Phil Coulter

All the old fashioned Christmas music you could wish for, courtesy of the famous piano man, with a guest turn from singer Geraldine Brannigan.

Details: Tuesday, Dec 17. National Concert Hall, €25 — €38.50.

Glow, Cork

A chance to sample the finest local artisan food and craft products, the Glow Christmas event returns to the city. Tir Na Nog, a ‘faery’ village for kids, will be at Bishop Lucey Park.

There is also a ferris wheel, a carousel ride and artisan stalls at Grand Parade.

Details: Tir Na Nóg runs Fridays to Sundays until Dec 22, from 4pm to 8pm. The Christmas Market is open Friday to Sunday and until Dec 23.

Kerry Christmas Market, Dingle

Some of the region’s finest crafts and food will be showcased, a ‘celebrity’ Santa will attend and there will be a children’s choral service and face-painting. The event is at the Diseart Cultural Centre.

Details: Dec 17, 18.

Carols For All Limerick

Featuring a star turn from Limerick Cantette Choir (and one Mr S Claus), this annual event is a celebration of Christmas tradition, featuring well love carols and hymns.

Details: Sunday, Dec 1, University Concert Hall, 3pm, €10.

Carols by Candlelight, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin

With accompaniment from composer David Bremner, the Cathedral choir will perform such seasonal staples as ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Come All Ye Faithful’. The ceremony is candle lit and features harpist Dianne Marshall.

Details: Dec 11-12, €25.

Waterford Winterval

A citywide celebration of Christmas, Winterval’s attractions include a Georgian Christmas exhibition at the Bishop’s Palace, a Santa’s grotto in the Medieval Museum, a toy museum, an ice-rink and animal farm (with reindeer) — plus a Winterval Express Santa Train.

There will be a Christmas Market in Cathedral Square and a special Viking Yuletide Village.

Details: Across Waterford City, until Dec 23 and from Dec 27-31.

Vladimir’s Viennese Christmas

Irish-based Slovak violinist Vladimir Jablokov is joined by the Slovak Festival Orchestra for a series of Christmas concerts, starting at Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray, on Dec 5 with stopovers in Dublin, Limerick, Waterford and Kildare. Jablokov formed the Slovak Festival Quartet in 2006, having started busking on Dublin’s Grafton Street.

Details: Dec 5–16.


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