The start of the Christmas season, these days, is signalled by Christmas markets, followed by Advent Carol Services. The Cotswolds have plenty of Christmas Fairs and Markets in the various beautiful villages and market towns from Cirencester to Chipping Campden, and even at Blenheim Palace.
The delicious aromas of cinnamon and ginger spices float through the crisp cold streets whilst one browses stalls offering many locally produced artisan designed items to place beneath the Christmas tree. Fuelled by mulled wine and mince pies, these markets are fun and a great way to start the Christmas season.
Advent and Carol Services – these services frequently offer some of the best music in the ecclesiastical calendar. To be sure of being able to attend, it is worth looking at the web sites of the various churches, as some of the services, whilst free, require booking tickets.
Blenheim Palace 17 November–17 December 2023
The market is one part of Blenheim Palace’s impressive programme of Christmas events and it promises to be as spectacular as ever. The traditional wooden chalets will return to the Grand Court offering inspired gifts, while the Christmas celebrations include stunning illuminations featuring more than a million lights. Sleeping Beauty and her Fairies flit all over the palace and there is a Sleeping Beauty themed afternoon tea for those in need of refreshment after an afternoon’s shopping.
Cirencester 25-26 November 2023
Browse more than 100 stalls to a soundtrack of live music and carols at Cirencester’s Advent Market which stretches the whole length of the town’s Market Place and spreads into Cricklade Street and Castle Street. Performances by local dance and theatre groups, choirs and musicians will also take place in the Parish Church and will be live streamed onto a big screen outside. Don’t miss the Christmas lights switch on at 4pm on the Market Place, when falling snow and silent fireworks will add an extra sprinkling of seasonal magic to the proceedings.
Woodstock 25-26 November 2023
Get on with your shopping and defray the costs by being the early bird early at Woodstock’s Festive Fayre, held in the town’s beautiful St Mary Magdalene church. With stallholders selling everything from candles and cards to pottery and preserves, with presents to suit all tastes in the historic church. Woodstock’s Night of a Thousand Candles also takes place on the Saturday evening, with carol singing, live music and the switching on of the Christmas tree lights.
Chipping Campden 2-3 December 2023
Chipping Campden’s High Street, Market Square and Town Hall morph into a magical winter wonderland on the first weekend in December for the annual Christmas Market. Visit the stalls overflowing with festive presents, crafts, food and drink before watching the big Christmas lights switch on at dusk. Father Christmas can be spotted by the more alert among the crowds as he spreads merry cheer on his way to his grotto. The indoor market in the Town Hall also continues on the Sunday.
Winchcombe 8-9 December 2023
Winchcombe’s Christmas Festival returns to the medieval market town for an evening full of Christmas celebrations. Stalls showcasing locally made crafts and tempting food and drink will take over North Street and Abbey Terrace, and the town’s shops will stay open late too for a night of shopping and seasonal cheer. Winchcombe is an historic medieval town, with its early Abbey and Sudeley Castle within walking distance of the market square. St Peter’s Church has a lovely Midnight Service on Christmas Eve.
Advent and Carol Services
The Cotswolds has a plethora of stunningly beautiful churches from Tewkesbury Abbey, Gloucester Cathedral to the parish churches of St John The Baptist in Cirencester, St John The Baptist in Burford and St Edward’s Stow-on-the-Wold.
Whilst the Abbey and Cathedral have many services in the run up to Christmas and on 23rd and 24th December, tickets are booked on through their respective web sites.
Cirencester -St John The Baptist has an Advent Carol Service at 6pm on Sunday 3rd December and the traditional service of Nine Lessons & Carols on 17th December at 6 p.m.https://cirenparish.co.uk/worship-and-services/seasonal-services/christmas-services/
Burford – St John The Baptist has the traditional Advent Carol Service at 3pm on Sunday 3rd December
For those wishing to join in in the open air, Northleach has a wonderful service each year in the Market Square – date to be confirmed