Review: A Christmas Mystery and Victorian Christmas at York Castle Museum

For me, Christmas and York Castle Museum have gone hand in hand since I was little. In fact, squirreled away in a box somewhere is an ancient York Press cutting with a photo of me and my brother aged 6 and 4, dressed as Victorians in a Christmassy Castle Museum, hand-in-hand with the Lord Mayor of the time (don’t ask). So it’s a special place to go back to with my own children, particularly at this time of year.

We were delighted to be invited along to try the museum’s new festive children’s trail, A Christmas Mystery. Each of the children received an activity booklet that led us around the museum, learning about Victorian Christmas traditions, trying Christmas crafts and spotting letters that a cheeky elf had left around the place. We made a paper dove, picked up a couple of Victorian Christmas recipes to try at home, tried on a selection of Christmas hats and pranced up and down the catwalk, learnt about how the Father Christmas story started, made a decoration for our tree and took home the kit we need to make our own Father Christmas peg dolls. These fab activities are open to all visitors, even if you’re not doing the trail, making it a great hands-on time to visit the museum.

The children enjoyed spotting the letters to Father Christmas that were dotted around the museum and working out from fingerprints which elf had been up to no good. We also enjoyed soaking up the Christmas atmosphere – all the recreated rooms from times gone by have been decked out for Christmas – and doing the teddy bear trail in the Toy Stories area for the millionth time. Kirkgate, the recreated street, is stunning at any time of year but looks really wonderful at Christmas.

And at the end of Kirkgate is a Victorian schoolroom where we got to meet a very jolly Father Christmas indeed. One mulled wine too many? No, just a serious helping of festive spirit. He was so friendly that the kids instantly relaxed and had a good chat with him. They happily told him how old they are before being presented with a lovely age-appropriate gift (no, they couldn’t wait until the 25th to open them). We were a week too early to enjoy a unique performance of A Christmas Carol on Kirkgate but the version we saw a couple of years ago was great. If you can catch it, do – it’s a brilliant one-man show that the whole family can enjoy. And the whole family will enjoy the Victorian Christmas experience at York Castle Museum too. It’s fantastic.

Best for

  • A full morning or afternoon of festive activity
  • Spontaneity – no booking required
  • Discovering facts about Christmases past

More details

The Christmas Mystery trail runs 10th &11th December and then 17th to 24th December daily. £5 per child (adult admission to the museum applies; free for YMT Card holders).

Visit the York Castle Museum website

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