Last night we met Father Christmas. I’m sure it was him, rather than one of the other red-and-white wearing imposters that you can visit at so many places at this time of year. Everything was right about him: his beard, his waistline, his suit, his voice and the kind way that he spoke to the kids. It wasn’t just the children in the room who were taken in by him; I bet I wasn’t the only adult who couldn’t believe that this wasn’t St. Nick himself.
This Father Christmas was just one of the many authentic and magical elements of our evening at York Castle Museum’s Victorian Christmas Experience. From the moment we met our costumed guide, Barnaby Jingle, we were transported back to Yuletide, Victorian style. All the children in our little group were invited to don a Victorian cap, take a lantern and head off to pick up the provisions on their shopping list.
Our journey around Kirkgate, the museum’s world famous recreated Victorian street, took in the pharmacist, tea purveyor, toy shop and ever-popular sweet shop. We met characters making their festive preparations which gave us an insight into how they lived but without seeming like a school lesson. Every step of our quest had been carefully crafted to keep the children engaged and entertained. During the hour’s tour they did crafts, sang carols, wrapped soap, listened to a reading of The Night Before Christmas and, having found the items on their shopping list, were led through to meet Santa Claus himself. Like a Santa straight out of a picture book, he made it a magical end to a lovely festive evening. He called out each child to receive a lovely personal, named gift appropriate for their age. All that was left was for each family to negotiate – over a drink and mince pie – whether they have to wait until December 25th to open them….
York Castle Museum’s Victorian Christmas Experience runs until 20th December 2014 from 5pm. Call 01904 687633 to book. Here’s what else is going on at York Castle Museum this Christmas.