Stores are stocking mince pies and cards, this year’s Christmas TV ads have begun to seem familiar already but the festive countdown isn’t official yet.For many of us, the season won’t begin until the switch is flipped to illuminate displays in shopping centres, towns and villages across the region.Among others, this month will see big switch-on events in Paignton, where X Factor finalists MK1 will add some sparkle to proceedings on November 24, and in Brixham on the same night where fireworks will add to the dazzling display.But one event where the festive decorations will take more of a starring role than most is at Exmouth’s Christmas Cracker on December 1.Fundraisers swung into action after the decision was taken to cancel the annual lighting display in 2011, forming the Exmouth Christmas Lights group.After a year of rallying support, the town’s festive decorations will return, with the switch-on taking place as part of the medieval merriment and family fun that make up the Christmas Cracker event.Suzanne Birkett, town management officer, said: “Thanks to the Exmouth Christmas Lights group, there will be a welcome return of the wonderful Christmas lights, bringing a little magic and sparkle to the town.“Starting in 2007 as a tiny tree illumination ceremony, the Christmas Cracker is now a well-established, exciting and original event attracting thousands to the town.“Firm favourites returning again this year include Joseph and Rebecca’s Amazing Camels to ride, the English Heritage National Jester, Peterkin the Fool, a fire-breathing dragon and the Daughters of Elvin with a medieval ceilidh.“With new acts adding to the mix, including a ‘small ring circus’ and the wonderful Military Wives Choir, this year’s Christmas Cracker will be the biggest and best yet.”The switch-on is expected to take place at 4pm on December 1, with events and entertainment taking place from 10am in The Strand and across the town centre, including the fundraising Santa Dash at 11am. The Christmas Cracker Market will also return to Rolle Street with stalls offering crafts, art, gifts and food. The full programme of events is available at www.exmouth.gov.uk/Core/Exmouth/Pages/Christmas_Cracker_3.Ms Birkett added: “Late-night shopping will take place on December 14, with entertainment running until 8pm, mulled wine, mince pies and special offers. Local shops, carol singers and the Exmouth Town Concert Band will offer shoppers a warm welcome.”To get your festive purchases under way and to ensure you have plenty of fun in the run-up to the day itself, here are 10 ideas for Christmas entertainment and shopping:1. Christmas Shop – JJ’s Christmas Shoppe really can’t be missed from a festive shopping guide. This is a nationwide specialist supplier of Christmas character figures, decorations and musical animations. It has an online store or you can get in the festive mood at its Torquay store.
JJ’s Christmas Shoppe, Market Forum, Market Street, Torquay, TQ1 3AE T: 01803 392733
2. Historic retail – check out Bickleigh Mill for three floors of retail therapy plus a bistro. The Mill was built in the late 18th century and was milling corn until the 1960s. The mill workings and water wheel are still on display. It offers a range of gifts and handmade crafts for sale and a range of Christmas offers including an Alpine Christmas Festival from November 30 to December 2 with demonstrations and events. Plus Christmas Shopping Nights on Thursdays during November. And a special event before the festivities will be a Christmas Champagne breakfast on December 23.
Bickleigh Mill, Riverside Shopping, Restaurant Bistro & Bar, Bickleigh, Tiverton, EX16 8RG T: 01884 855419
3. Shop offers – stores across Devon are having special festive promotions to entice you to buy gifts. Among them are shops at Green Lanes Shopping Centre in Barnstaple. It boasts a range of High Street names in the centre including 3Store, BHS, Claire’s, Mothercare, River Island and New Look. And if you want a break from shopping check out the Green Lanes Café for breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea. Plus HMV is opening a new pop-up shop at Green Lanes until January 5. It is taking over the premises formerly occupied by Peacocks. Open Monday to Saturday 9am to 5.30pm and Sundays 10.30am to 4.30pm.
Green Lanes Shopping Centre, Barnstaple, EX31 1UL T: 01272 322278
4. Made in Devon – The Friends of South Devon College are holding a Made in Devon Christmas Market on December 5 which aims to celebrate “talent and resources of local origin”. To book a table call Ellis Foster on 01803 540667 or email firstname.lastname@example.org The Friends charity was set up in 2008 to support students.
Friends of South Devon College, Vantage Point, Long Road, Paignton, TQ4 7EJ T: 01803 540622
5. Donkey Christmas – The Sidmouth Christmas Fair for Donkey Associated Therapy takes place on December 1 from 10am to 3pm at the Donkey Sanctuary. The day will feature a range of indoor craft stalls, mini-outdoor street market, games, carols by Sidmouth College Choir and Band, display from Tiverton Town Majorettes plus the chance to have a donkey sleigh ride to see Santa for £3. The centre provides therapeutic riding sessions to around 150 local children with additional needs each week as well as outreach visits with donkeys to residents of nursing homes, hospices and care homes. Admission to the fair is free and there is also free parking.
The Donkey Sanctuary, Sidmouth, Devon, EX10 0NU T: 01395 578222
6. Christmas cracker – there’s plenty of variation available for the crackers which dress the dining table on December 25 in the shops but this Christmas Cracker on December 1 is Exmouth’s annual festive celebration, which in 2012 has a medieval theme. From 10am to 8pm there will be market stalls and entertainment in Rolle Street with the Military Wives Choir singing in the tree light switch-on at 4pm in the Strand Gardens. There’s plenty to entertain shoppers all day with an added splash of colour in the shape of a fundraising Santa Dash starting at 11am.
Strand Gardens, The Strand and Rolle Street, Exmouth, EX8 4NP
7. Christmas carnival – Honiton has three days of festive fun planned kicking off with late-night shopping on December 6 coinciding with the street market, too. The following day there will be Christmas carols in St Paul’s Church at 5.30pm before the Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony and on Saturday, December 8, take a breather from the shopping frenzy to watch the illuminated Christmas carnival, which sees the procession start in the west end of the High Street at 5.30pm.
Honiton Tourist Information Centre, Dowell Street, Honiton, EX14 1LT T: 01404 43716
8. Hug a Husky – a series of Christmas events are planned at Exeter’s Guildhall Shopping Centre including giving shoppers the chance to hug a husky and have their photo taken with Santa’s favourite dogs on December 15. The Salvation Army will be carol singing during the day as will the 39th Exeter Guides. From December 13 to Christmas Eve there will be children’s rides, while the Christmas Market runs from November 29 to December 9 and on November 24 Father Christmas moves into his grotto, although he will also pop in during the light switch-on festivities on November 22.
The Guildhall Shopping Centre, Exeter, EX4 3HP T: 01392 201910
9. Light switch-on – Paignton will have the X Factor when the Christmas lights are switched on with finalists MK1 among the performers on November 24. Shoppers can take regular festive breaks all day as there will be carols in Palace Avenue Gardens to enjoy from 11am with other entertainment on the streets before a lantern parade leaves Victoria Park at 4pm for the switch-on in Torbay Road at 4.30pm.
Paignton Town Centre, TQ4 6ED
10. Christmas Market – Brixham Christmas Market takes place the same weekend as the resort’s Christmas light switch-on – November 24 and 25. More than 40 stalls will be taking part in the Scala Hall with it extended to Fore Street on the Sunday. The light switch-on takes place under the Old Fish Market on the Quay on Saturday night with fireworks included. Entertainment starts at 4pm including the arrival of Santa, with the switch on itself around 6pm. The Quay will be closed to traffic at noon.
Scala Hall, Town Hall, Brixham, TQ5 8TA T: 01803 859678