The pleasures of York at Christmas

Christmas is meant to be a time for giving and sharing, but if you’re feeling the pinch as well as the chill this winter, Rowena Nicholls reveals how to indulge in the festive season without selling your soul to Scrooge

It is that time of year again; the nights are drawing in, the lake has frozen over, strange men are starting to wonder around in red costumes with sacks, and your next-door neighbour keeps trying to sneakily corner you under the mistletoe. Yes, it is nearly Christmas, the joyous time of exchanging gifts with loved ones, singing carols, making snowmen and getting substantially drunk on mulled wine by the fireside.

However, for many students, the season of good will may not be so merry. Christmas can be a notoriously stressful time of the year, particularly as the mounting pressure to spend arrives at just the point when the remnants of your loan are disappearing. Yet, as the old adage goes: ‘the best things in life are free’. There are many ingenious ideas that make it possible to have a merry Christmas on a budget in York this year without turning into Scrooge, or even worse, Tiny Tim.

Now that York has its Christmas decorations up, the city is probably one of the most festive places to shop in the country, and you can now do this ‘til 8pm every Thursday evening. This is perfect for those too busy to reach town during the day, or alternatively those who are inclined to wander around in the snow, busily buying presents and pretending that are starring in a festive BBC period drama. Furthermore, if you fancy wrapping up warm and strutting around in some fancy footwear, from the 26th November and all through December there will be an ice skating rink near Clifford’s Tower; perfect for showing off your sexy moves and acrobatic twists on those winter dates! It costs £6.50 if you have a student card and is a perfect excuse to pretend that yes, you are actually Torvill (or Deane) and everybody wants to be you, as you waltz around trying to impress. But if you fall over, remember to make your hands into fists…

For the more cultural amongst us, or those who prefer a slightly warmer arena, why not go to the Minster for some merry carol services. There is a carol service held on almost every evening throughout December, which can be a really unique and fantastic experience. The majority of Minster concerts are free but there are a few extra special services that cost. The Minster is also hosting the York Early Music Festival in December, which promises to showcase a whole range of musical talents. Early music may be a bit random, but why not? Embrace your inner craving to hear a Chaucer-esque lute. Contact the Minster on 01904 621756 for more information and make sure that you arrive early, as the queues can be really long.

Furthermore, the news that Darcy from Neighbours is coming to York has sent avid fans at the University into frenzy. Tickets for the show are quite expensive, priced between £10.15 – £14.50, but is it really possible to put a price on the opportunity to see such a tanned Adonis play the handsome Prince in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? Here is the perfect opportunity to eat pick and mix until you throw up, holler “he’s behind you”, or even use the event as a platform to launch a noisy camping about how Karl and Susan should get back together.

If so far nothing has grabbed you, or you are too unshakeably cool to go to a panto, then a trip to the York Dungeons may be in order. From 13th December, Satan instead of Santa (see what they did there?), will be available to hear you reel off your wish list for a new Playstation, the Lost box set and an inflatable sheep… At Satan’s Grotto you will be greeted by roasting robins, impaled elves and, of course, Beezlebub himself. Only the brave and evil get to sit on his naughty knee.

There are few who have been into town when there hasn’t been a market in Parliament Street, which is inevitably full of desperate vendors dousing incense over people in an effort to drug them into buying ethnic handbags. Throughout December, such markets will enjoy more of a festive tone and you can buy hand crafted gifts, or something odd like a German sausage or piece of furniture (if that’s what takes your fancy!).

Evidently, the city can provide a range of special things to do before going home time arrives, but what does campus have to offer? As the weather descends increasingly into a mini ice-age, the thought of freezing in town may be too much for the fragile ones amongst us. Furthermore, impending darkness can cause the Sixties-style buildings on the campus to dampen Christmas spirits. If you are living on campus, it is important to get organised with a few party tricks to make your surroundings more colourful and festive.

Firstly, you will obviously need to put up decorations – but not before December 1st or else its bad luck. In order to make your room glisten on the cheap, add some tinsel and that old favourite, fake snow to your windows; a brilliant way to wish universal cheer and declare your undying love for the fitty in the block opposite. Try popping down to Pound Land, which has reams and reams of cheap Christmas decorations all for a pound! So splash out and buy your porter a Santa hat to bring a bit of cheer to your college.

Unfortunately, garden centres don’t really exist in close proximity to York City centre, so unless you are really dedicated and plan on heaving a four foot Swedish elm over your shoulder all the way back from B&Q, you may need to invest in a fake plastic or blow-up Christmas tree. However, you can occasionally buy trees from the grocery shop on Heslington Road, or failing that, the forested area surrounding the University over Fulford way may suffice, but be careful not to bump into anyone with your axe, as it may give the wrong impression…

Real mistletoe is also difficult to get hold of, so it might be a good idea to buy the tacky plastic variety, which can then become a permanent feature above your door. Clearly you would have to kiss everyone who comes into your room, which may be a shock for your cleaner or landlord. But who knows, this could work to your advantage!

To save cooking an expensive Christmas dinner and probably causing the evacuation of your block or street, try settling for dining out on campus. Many of the colleges are offering reasonable Christmas lunches for under a fiver (depending on whether you can manage a pudding or not) with both traditional turkey and various vegetarian options. Clearly there will be a plethora of campus events encouraging drunken Christmas fun and frolics, but if you have completely run out of money by this point, why not cash in on all the free booze offered by under-subscribed societies who have been haplessly emailing you all year? The season is about giving and taking after all.

So it seems that being a poor student doesn’t necessarily have to mean spending all of your loan to the point of having to hitchhike home, or else missing out on celebrations until you get spoiled by your family. Whatever you chose to get up to in York this Christmas, it promises to be a merry affair.

Last minute Christmas crackers

Organise carol singing and go door to door. You may be able to charge more for leaving…

Get your friend (clearly not you) to dress up as Santa and walk around your college giving out chocolate for extra Christmas cheer.

Get down to the Early Learning Centre and
make paper chains to decorate your room and corridor.

Arrange a fancy dress Christmas party (dress up as ghosts of Christmas past perhaps?) and make your own, stronger version of mulled wine.

Dress up as characters from the nativity play and re-enact it whilst you walk around campus. Charge people to watch you desecrate the biblical tale.

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