All wrapped up!
Holly Eells gets you in a seasonal mood with a selection of Christmas markets, spectacular light switch on ceremonies and shopping extravaganza events as the county’s towns gear up for the festive season
Christmas shopping inspirations across the county
Nestled in the heart of the Essex countryside, this beautiful town knows how to celebrate Christmas in true festive style, as well as how to help make your Christmas shopping experience one to remember.
This long-standing ancient market town and its local businesses have come together once again to host a festive extravaganza with a Christmas Light Switch On event from 3pm on Saturday, December 1.
Great Dunmow Mayor, Cllr Barrie Easter, believes this is always a fantastic day for all the family to enjoy. He said: “We are all eagerly awaiting this year’s event! I love to walk along the High Street just as it is getting dark and watch the lights come on. The lights are beautiful throughout the town, in the shops and homes too, and with so many listed buildings in Dunmow, the town is postcard picturesque.”
The Christmas Light Switch On event will provide great entertainment for all, including craft stalls, a bouncy castle, tea cup rides, face painting, live local music acts on stage, a Prosecco stall and Santa’s grotto (please book tickets in advance).
Barrie added: “We have a great market every Tuesday with a variety of stalls. Also, we have two butchers, bespoke homeware shops, boutiques for men and women and much more. Most of our shops offer a gift-wrapping service too, if like me, you’re not great at wrapping! You can treat yourself to high tea in one of our many tea rooms and cafes, or choose from a variety of restaurants, all of which are superb.”
FIND OUT MORE
Visit Great Dunmow visitgreatdunmow.co.uk/events Book in advance for Santa in his Grotto. £2.50 per child.
Braintree Town Centre is kicking off the festive season especially early this year with its Christmas Light Switch On event on Saturday, November 17, so if you can’t wait for Christmas, this is the place to be! It will include fabulous entertainment from local artists, dance groups and a school choir, as well as fun activities for the kids. The action-packed event will begin in Market Place at noon and runs until 5.45pm, with the Switch On at 5.30pm orchestrated by Radio Essex presenters Chris and Abbie.
In the heart of the town, George Yard Shopping Centre, which offers a fantastic mix of high street names and independent boutiques, will also be turning its lights on just before 5pm. It will also be launching a free Elf Trail, running until December 17, where children can go on a journey through the town centre to find Father Christmas’ lost elves who are hiding in shops and window displays.
The town centre will also be holding three themed Christmas street markets on November 17, December 1 and December 22, where locals and visitors can browse a wide range of stalls selling gourmet street food, homewares and gifts, plus a drinks bar, arts and crafts, stocking fillers and more.
From a designer shopping village to the region’s ancient history, Braintree really does provide plenty of opportunities for shoppers. Cllr Vanessa Santamouro, Chairman of Braintree District Council, believes this town is the place to be this festive season.
She said: “Now is the perfect time to support small independent businesses. You’ll be sure to find something special and truly unique locally, while helping to boost the local economy this Christmas.”
FIND OUT MORE Freeport Braintree 01376 348168 freeport-braintree.com
George Yard Shopping Centre 01376 550373 georgeyard.co.uk
Braintree District Council 01376 552525 braintree.gov.uk/christmas
Discover the charming and beautiful town of Maldon this festive season, which is packed with timeless history and a wide-variety of independent shops, making it more than just a shopping experience.
Returning for its fourth year, the town will be holding its Maldon’s Vintage Christmas Fayre with a ‘back to the 50s’ theme on November 29 from 6pm to 9pm. A local choir will be singing Christmas carols from 6.15pm to 6.30pm to get everyone in the festive mood and the Mayor of Maldon will be switching on the lights at 6.30pm.
Chairman for Maldon’s Vintage Christmas Fayre, Cllr Michael Pearlman, believes this extravaganza will be the biggest event in Essex this festive season. He says: “I’m really excited as this event is even more jam-packed and better than last year. We have a real mixture of more than 80 stalls, including crafts, Christmas decorations, candles, cakes and much more.
“There are going to be three stages located across the town with fabulous music to entertain the shoppers, plus a winter wonderland themed Santa’s Grotto and real reindeers. We also have a lot of sponsors this year who wanted to be involved, including Maldon Salt and Tiptree Jam, which has enabled us to be more extravagant with the event.”
With more than 100 shops and businesses in the High Street, its eclectic mix of independent boutiques, high street brands and specialist shops makes it easy to get the ideal gift you have been looking for.
FIND OUT MORE Maldon Tourist Information 01621 856503 visitmaldon.co.uk
Colchester might be Britain’s oldest recorded town and the first Roman capital in England, but it still has a vibrant, cosmopolitan appeal that attracts many locals and visitors all year round. Why not take advantage of the wide range of special attractions, spectacular events and the wealth of shopping opportunities with loved ones and make a day out of it this year?
Cllr Tim Young, portfolio holder for business & culture and deputy leader of Colchester Borough Council, said: “We have a town to be proud of all year round – but we have been working with partners to help make the town even more special this Christmas, underlining our commitment to a better Colchester.
“As well as the annual Christmas Light Switch On (on Sunday, November 25), which is always a draw for the whole
family, we are looking to make the town centre more festive than ever with a number of Christmas trees brightening up the area.”
The same day, Fenwick's programme of activity will be kicking off from 4pm to 5.30pm, including the arrival of Santa, a Christmas show and other festive surprises to be revealed.
Local residents and visitors are in for a treat this Christmas because Colchester's huge selection of boutique and bigname stores are opening until 9pm on December 5, 12 and 19, and there will be free parking from 3pm in council car parks.
Also, don’t miss the Colchester Christmas Market on December 9 from 10am to 5pm to really get in the festive mood. There will be street entertainers, a Victorian Christmas Experience, fun fair rides, a gospel choir, live music, gifts, street food and mulled wine.
FIND OUT MORE
Lion Walk Shopping Centre 01206 564957 lionwalkshopping.com
Culver Square Shopping Centre 01206 578830 culversquare.co.uk
01206 571212 fenwick.co.uk/stores/colchester
Colchester Tourism Information 01206 282920 visitcolchester.com
Chelmsford always has so much to offer with its fabulous array of ‘go to’ shopping destinations including three shopping centres – Bond Street, High Chelmer and The Meadows – that provide ample opportunity to source that perfect gift in time for Christmas.
There will be exciting events throughout the festive season, including a Bearded Gypsy Trade Fayre coming to the High Street on the first Sunday of every month (until February) and amazing attractions such as the bigger and better Ice Rink at Bond Street from December 5 to January 3.
The Christmas Light Switch On event is on Sunday, November 18 and will be hosted by Heart radio’s Martin and Su, with walkabout acts including a bubble man, stilt walkers and prancing princesses from noon, plus much more to be revealed.
Mayor of Chelmsford Cllr Yvonne Spence said: “I love the run up to Christmas in Chelmsford with the lively and bustling streets filled with people getting into the festive spirit. Chelmsford is the perfect location to grab all your presents ready for Christmas.”
Yvonne added: “I always recommend a visit to the small independent shops and stalls which you can find in Moulsham Street and the Chelmsford retail market. Finally, there is a plethora of places to sit down and enjoy a bite of lunch, a glass of wine or a cup of tea and delicious cake! There is something for everyone to enjoy in Chelmsford and it’s the perfect place for your Christmas shopping!’
FIND OUT MORE
Bond Street Chelmsford 01245 259259 bondstreetchelmsford.co.uk
High Chelmer Shopping Centre 01245 260755 highchelmer.com
Meadows Shopping Centre 01245 346266 themeadows.co.uk
Colchester Tourism Information 01206 282920 visitcolchester.com
Chelmsford Council 01245 606606 chelmsford.gov.uk/christmas
There are plenty of reasons to head on over to Saffron Walden for a day of Christmas shopping this season. With a wide range of shops and a mixture of markets and art galleries, this beautiful market town is packed full of great things to enjoy. It also offers an array of fun activities for local residents and visitors to see and do over the Christmas holidays too.
To begin the festive celebrations, the medieval town will be hosting its annual Christmas Light Switch On event earlier this year on November 25 from 11am. There will be a variety of stalls in Market Place to source lots of unique gifts for loved ones.
At 4pm, Father Christmas and his elves will accompany the Mayor of Saffron Walden, Cllr Paul Fairhurst, from the Town Council Office all the way to in front of the Town Hall at 4.30pm to switch on the Christmas lights.
Cllr Fairhurst believes this town offers something special for shoppers. He said: “Saffron Walden offers a unique assortment of products, often locally sourced and delivered in an authentic atmosphere of old world charm and personal attention. In a world of practicality and a fast sell, Saffron Walden still believes in the personal touch and bespoke service. This explains its thriving and growing popularity for discerning shoppers from far and wide.”
The town will be hosting its annual late night shopping evening of fun from 5.30pm to 8.30pm, with a Christmas Market in King Street and Market Place plus charity stalls lining the central streets and entertainers. The Christmas Fair in the Town Hall runs from November 30 to December 2.
FIND OUT MORE Saffron Walden Tourist Information
01799 524002 visitsaffronwalden.gov.uk
If you are looking for big name brands and exciting independents, plus convenient car parking and a delicious range of food and drink on offer throughout your Christmas shopping trip, Harlow can offer the ultimate shopping experience this festive season.
It is set to kick start early in true festive style with The Harvey Centre’s Santa’s Grotto, which will open from Wednesday, November 7 and this year will be bigger and better than ever before – styled as a giant cookie house.
There will be more special events and entertainment on Saturday, November 17 from 11am until 4pm. This is when the magic happens as the centre will be filled with festive cheer as shoppers are joined by a host of extraordinary entertainers, including two hilarious kings, the Sugar Plump Fairies and a musically-gifted Elf Band. Joining them will be the festive market traders who will be showing off their catalogue of weird and wonderful gadgets.
Bryan Young, centre manager at The Harvey Centre, said: “We wanted to make this event a huge success and really mark the beginning of the Christmas season, so we’ve arranged for a vast array of really fun performances. There will be something for everyone to enjoy and we hope shoppers will have plenty of fun and spend the whole day with us.”
There will also be late-night shopping opportunities until 7pm on Thursday, December
13; Monday, December 17 and Saturday, December 22.
FIND OUT MORE Harvey Town Centre 01279 442981 theharveycentre.com
Harlow Town Council 01279 446655 harlow.gov.uk/visit
The Water Gardens Shopping Centre
01279 453554 thewatergardensharlow.com
Father Christmas will appear in Great Dunmow
Merriment in Maldon
Outside Fenwick in Colchester and fresh produce on the streets of Great Dunmow
Christmas lights in Saffron Walden
It’s time to sparkle in Saffron Walden
Dressed for the season in Harlow
Harlow has the wow factor