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Join the parade
It’s a busy time of year, but one event we wouldn’t miss is the annual Carnival of the Animals community lantern parade in Maidenhead. Featuring live music and entertainment, street food and a bar, and produced by Norden Farm, there’s nothing like it to bring the locals together in a spectacular celebration that lights up the town.
In the six-week run-up to the parade on 8 December, you can join a lantern-making workshop at Norden Farm or in Maidenhead town centre (£4 per person), where experts from Same Sky – the largest community arts charity in the South East – will be on hand to help you weave and decorate willow to make lanterns inspired by the animal world, ready to be illuminated at the parade, which departs the Town Hall at 5pm.
People of all ages can get involved – from the public to schools and community groups. Last year, nearly 1,500 people took part in the parade and enjoyed the celebratory concert afterwards.
This year it’s the 10th anniversary of the event, and to mark the occasion, there will be a special retrospective exhibition at Norden Farm opening on 15 January 2019.
Reflect on Christmases past and reminisce over the toys you loved during your own childhood. Make a date to visit the Toys of Yesteryear exhibition at Maidenhead Heritage Centre, which runs until 3 January, and will no doubt bring back memories of charming traditional toys that you played with and brought you happiness when you were little. Proving they can stand the test of time, this childhood collection of treasures could be just as popular with your own kids on this educational day out down memory lane.
Dark evenings, clear skies and a touch of magic in the air make Christmas a wonderful time of year for stargazing, so pour yourself a hot chocolate, wrap up warm and head out into the crisp, wintery night air to gaze up at the canopy of stars above.
The Star of Bethlehem was at the centre of the Christmas story, where the three wise men saw the bright shining star as a sign and were inspired to travel to Jerusalem to meet the baby Jesus.
The Christmas star may only have appeared in the nativity story, but there is plenty else for keen winter stargazers to see.
“If you are fortunate to live in a dark area you may see the Milky Way – a broad band of stars stretching across the sky,” says Fred Cook, Membership Secretary of Maidenhead Astronomical Society.
Chris Menmuir, Secretary of the Reading Astronomical Society, adds: “Grab a pair of binoculars and go out somewhere dark, like the middle of a park or the Berkshire Downs, away from houses and streetlamps – keeping safe at all times – and start by looking for
a few constellations, such as the Plough. Planets like Venus are also visible to the naked eye. And you can also look for sightings of the International Space Station as it passes over. Don’t forget the moon can be fascinating too, with its craters and mountains.”
One of the easily recognised constellations is Orion. “Hanging from the belt of Orion (the three stars across the middle) are three stars known as the Sword of Orion, the middle one of which is the Orion Nebula,” says Fred. This is where new stars are being created.
“From the start of December to the week before Christmas there is the Geminid Meteor Shower. Around the 14th December, the number of meteors could reach 120 an hour, a sight well worth braving the cold for,” adds Fred.
So where are the good spots for stargazing in Berkshire? Fred says: “Cookham Dean Common, Ockwells Park, White Waltham Airfield and Braywick Nature Centre – book beforehand. Also try Pinkneys Green and Winter Hill.”
Want to learn more? Check out these events near you:
7 December, Maidenhead Astronomical Society Meeting at St James-the-Less Church Hall, Stubbings, maidenhead-astro.net
28 December, Friday Club with Reading Astronomical Society at St Peter’s Church Hall, Earley, readingastro.org.uk
Christmas Table Decoration Lunch - 10 December
The Runnymede Hotel and Surrey-based florist, Lily’s Flowers, will demonstrate how to create the perfect Christmas table setting with seasonal winter flowers and foliage as well as tips on how to style your dining room for the festive period.
Make your own festive door wreath from a selection of decorations, such as dried oranges, chillies and limes to baubles, silk flowers and ribbon with the help of Kim Harrison from Lavenders in Newbury. Afterwards, enjoy a hot drink and a mince pie served in the cafe. 4 December, £40, westberkshireheritage.org.
Ufton Court, Reading
Head to the 16th Century Tithe Barn, which will be adorned with a 15ft Christmas tree. Karen and her team from Allium Designs will provide refreshments, plus all materials, foliage and decorations for you to make a wreath fit to welcome any guests. 10 December, £45 in aid of Ufton Adventure, uftoncourt.co.uk.
Basildon Park, Lower Basildon
Enjoy the festive surroundings of Basildon Park, then gather in the Old Kitchen at the mansion to make a natural, homemade Christmas decoration with foliage gathered from the estate. Mince pies and hot drinks are provided during the class. 8, 9 or 10 December, £45, nationaltrust.org.uk.
20 November–30 December, The Fir Tree; 1 December, Pop Music; 7 December, Harry and Chris Save the World; 14–15 December, Stephen K Amos: Bouquets and Brickbats; 18 December, Cara Dillon – Upon a Winter’s Night; 19 December, A Charity Christmas Concert in Aid of the Brett Foundation