Blogmas Day 20 – Christmas in Durham

Hellooooo merry readers!


The gleefulness is truly setting in now – I feel like I’m an elf all hopped up on candyfloss and sugar dancing in a gingerbread house all covered in tinsel and sparkly lights. 

Part of what has been helping me dive into the festivities is that I am on a break from university, so I actually have some time to slow down and do some of my favourite Christmassy activities. For instance, the other day, I spent most of my day in my festive pyjamas, drinking hot chocolate and watching Christmas movies while I baked cinnamon rolls. The other part is I’m getting to see and experience the different parts of Christmas here in England. Considering I’m spending Christmas away from home this year, I thought I should really take notice of all the Christmas over here. So today, it is in exactly that spirit that I was inspired with today’s post – to share what it feels like to spend the holiday season here in Durham. I hope you enjoy it!

The weather is certainly appropriate 

One thing about growing up in South Africa is that Christmas coincides with the middle of summer. So while everything about Christmas as advertised screams cosy days by the fireplace, lots of snow and chilly weather and the heavy emphasis on hot beverages, in South Africa, we don’t really have that because it’s summer! Instead of snow, we have thunderstorms. Instead of drinking hot chocolate by the fire, we have iced tea by the braai. Instead of sledging and building snowmen, we go swimming and work on our tans. To summarise, let’s just say it’s a different type of Christmas experience.

Whilst I have spent Christmasses over the years in colder climates, there is something different about it this year as I’m living here, not just on holiday. Even though it’s different to my normal, it’s really cool because now I get to experience Christmas in the weather that most people typically associate with Christmas – cold!! The wind is frigid, so I constantly have the heating on, the roads are all icy, and we’ve even had snow twice, so it certainly looks and feels like Christmas as advertised!

Photo by Kristin Vogt on

Christmas decorations everywhere 

Being able to see Christmas decorations everywhere, I also think really helps get one in the holiday spirit, and Durham itself really gets into gear around Christmas. There are Christmas light displays on the street lamps, a Christmas display in the city centre, all the shops (and lots of people’s windows/houses in fact) have decked their halls, and there are Christmas trees and lights dotted around the city which is just stunning. Every time I leave my house, it feels like I get to go on a little Christmas expedition – it’s gorgeous at night when everything is all lit up. 

Festive foods to eat 

As discussed at multiple points during this Blogmas, food is definitely a central feature for many people at Christmas and in Christmas traditions, and who can complain? The Christmas menus and festive treats available are just too spectacular not to rave about and eat at every opportunity. One thing that’s so great about being in Durham at this time is it seems like almost every restaurant has got Christmas themed foods and drinks. So I am merrily making my way through the different options, and it’s really great to visit some of my favourite restaurants that now have special menu items exclusive to this time of year. There are still a lot of cafes on my list, so I can try their festive desserts though … my scale is so going to hate me, but I just don’t care!

Photo by Jill Wellington on

Mini celebrations with friends 

Even though I’m not with my family, what’s been a really fun alternative is getting to have other mini celebrations with my friends. Spending Christmas in Durham means that I’ve got longer to see my uni mates and make small plans with them, which I would not get to experience at all in South Africa. For instance, some of my friends and I had a Christmas dinner, the Disney gang had a Christmas movie night (or three), my Creative Writing exec friends and I hosted a Christmas quiz and are planning another Christmas movie marathon, we got to decorate cookies together, as groups we’ve done walks to see the lights and it’s such a new and fun way to enjoy this time of year. 

Hop, Skip and jump to more Christmas experiences!

So far, I’ve mentioned some of the great things about spending the Christmas season, particularly in Durham, but Durham is relatively small, and there are only so many things to do before you start to repeat yourself. Sure, there was a charming Christmas market, and there are some cutesy Christmas activities, but they are on a very small scale. Thankfully, what Durham lacks in that department, it makes up for by being pretty close to other locations where you can have more Christmassy fun. For instance, Durham is super duper close to New Castle, which is a much bigger city with loads of fun Christmas activities to wrap my tinsel arms in. Edinburgh is two hours away, and if that’s not cool enough, if you’re really stuck, you can head to London in just 3 hours on the train, so Christmas in other exciting locations is really accessible. 

Edinburgh Christmas getaway  

Speaking of Edinburgh, one thing I’ve found such fun about spending Christmas in Durham is that I very literally got to have a short holiday in Edinburgh without loads of planning or things being insanely expensive. My friend and I popped on a train; two hours later, we were in Edinburgh and boy did we throw ourselves into Christmas there. We explored the stunning Christmas markets through the little gift and food stalls; took a really long stroll around the city both during the day and at night to see all the different market locations, the lights and decorations; went to the zoo and saw the Christmas lights and adorable animals there. I even went ice skating, which is not something I’m talented at in the slightest – thankfully, I didn’t fall on my butt, but it was still terrifying. Overall, it was such a fun trip and truly got me in the Christmas spirit. I also got some adorable souvenirs to remember the trip, so double win! 

And there you have it! Spending Christmas in England is undoubtedly a different experience. Even though it’s not one I was expecting, it’s not one I’m regretting because I’m getting to see and enjoy Christmas in a whole new light. It’s much colder, that’s for sure, but it’s still fun, and it’s giving me the chance to make new traditions, which is never a bad thing. Have you ever spent Christmas in the North of England or been to Edinburgh for the Christmas markets? What did you think? Are there any Christmas festivities, decorations, or food and drink in your home town that you’re really enjoying? Let’s chat in the comments section! 

Lots of love

Blondey on a Mission xxx

Author: blondeyonamission

Hey everyone! I'm a lifestyle and travel blogger from South Africa and about to relocate to the UK for university. My blog is all about stories, tips and advice with topics ranging from university, organisation, friends, books, travel and more. Please check it out and I hope you enjoy xxx

12 thoughts

    1. Ahh thanks well I always believe the key to anything really is having the right attitude – no point in getting all glum about it when there’s sadly nothing I can do to change it. Oooh yeah maybe someday then – it’s lovely! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It depends on your definition of nothing you can do to change it, but that’s an entirely different discussion… it’s always important to know what is and isn’t worth the effort to change, though.

        Liked by 1 person

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