From tradition to mayhem, myth to misrule, there’s nothing quite like Christmas in Cornwall. It’s time to get in the Christmas spirit with these 16 (mostly free) ideas to make the most of Nadelik Kernow… meaning Christmas in Cornish!
Cornwall is a stunning county in England with so much to do. Whether you’re heading there on a sunny summer holiday or regularly brave the cold to celebrate your Christmas breaks in Cornwall by the coast – you’ll never be short of festive activities to entertain the whole family on a Cornwall Christmas!
You’ll find tonnes of unique days out in Cornwall, but at Christmas it’s really something special. There are many events on throughout the festive season, some of which are to raise money for charities, while others are completely free and just need a little creativity. From light switch-ons to Santa fun runs to Christmas wild swimming, Cornwall has it all.
Here are 16 fun events for Christmas in Cornwall in 2023…
READ MORE: 25 Interesting Facts About Cornwall for 2023
Best Events for Christmas in Cornwall
All times, dates and confirmations for these Cornwall Christmas days out are correct at date of publishing (November 2023). Please double check and pre book before you leave the house!
1. Listen to Christmas carols in Truro Cathedral
Dates: Selected dates between 4th and 30th December 2023
Truro Cathedral is famous for its celebration of Advent with special services throughout the festive season. Don’t miss a chance to hear the cathedral’s choir performing carols.
Some of the carol services you can look forward to this year include:
- Monday 4th December: The Blue Light Carol Service in aid of emergency service workers.
- Friday 15th December: Christian Aid’s Truro Big Christmas Sing, where Elsie Graham will join an ensemble led by Lost in Song Truro & Falmouth, performing songs from the Cornish Diaspora project and Callington Gospel Choir.
- Saturday 16th December: NOEL! with Truro Cathedral’s renowned choir singing a spectacular selection of festive music.
- Tuesday 19th December: Support ShelterBox by purchasing a ticket to their evening of festive carols, readings and mince pies, hosted by Fern Britton, with performances from the sea shanty group ‘The Clams’ and local choir ‘The Suitcase Singers’.
- Saturday 30th December: The Pets Carol Service means you can bring your four-legged friends for some singing! Furry, feathered and scaly friends are also welcome to join in.
You can explore what’s on in the Truro Catherdral here.
2. See Santa make an epic entrance
Date: 13th December 2023
Never mind the chimney! Santa takes a different mode of transport in Cornwall. In previous years he has been dropped off by helicopter by RNAS Culdrose, and this year, he can be found arriving by lifeboat at St Ives harbour during their big Christmas lights switch-on.
The St Ives Christmas light switch-on will take place this year from 6.30pm, but it’s not clear when the guest of honour is due to sail his way to shore, so get there early if you want to meet Santa.
The whole event is free to attend, so it’s a great, affordable day out for the whole family.
3. Become Santa (and get your heart rate up!)
Date: 3rd December 2023
There’s nothing quite like the sight of hundreds of red and white bedecked Santas racing around the Eden project’s famous Biomes. The annual 2km Santa Fun Run around the UK’s most famous gardens raises vital funds for the Children’s Hospice South West, for children with life-limiting conditions.
There are also sister events running throughout the region bringing together thousands of santas for this vital children’s charity. The good news is you can also walk if you don’t fancy getting your Santa suit sweaty!
4. Marvel at beautiful Cornish Christmas lights
Dates: 18th November 2023, and 11th – 21st December 2023
Mousehole is Cornwall’s Christmas Capital. Its famous Christmas harbour lights celebrate their 60th birthday in 2023, and each year there are 60 different displays including a giant Celtic Cross and a 50m Santa and his sleigh. This year the fun starts on the 18th November, with their Mousehole Harbour Lights Coffee Morning from 10.30am ’til 12.30pm.
This year they are doing a quieter, more peaceful switch-on, so lights will be switched on between 5pm and 6pm on December 11th, but there will be no formal ceremony. There will however be invited guest musicians playing in the village on various nights between the 11th and 21st December from 6pm to around 7.30pm.
While you’re in Mousehole, the locals love to share the story of Tom Bawcock and his famous Stargazy Pie which legend has it fed all of the starving Mousehole villagers on Christmas Eve. A fish, egg and potato pie, it is famous for its protruding fish heads. You’ll find this startling-looking cuisine being served up in local eateries if only for the photo-op.
Mousehole is one of the prettiest villages in Cornwall, so it’s definitely a must-do for Christmas, and the Newquay Christmas light switch-on is also spectacular – Newquay at Christmas is stunning!
5. See the dazzling light shows
Dates: 17th November 2023 – 2nd January 2024
After a trip to Mousehole harbour to get you in the mood, head to some of the other light shows dotted around Cornwall. Two of our favourites have to be at The Lost Gardens of Heligan, and Charlestown Harbour’s Shipwreck Museum.
This year at the Lost Gardens of Heligan, you can see the lights and enchanting lantern experience in the Heligan Night Garden from the 17th November right through to the 2nd January, and even make your own lantern. There are also Christmas lunches from 1st – 22nd December and the chance to meet Father Chrismas from 1st – 24th December (but please keep in mind the lunches and Santa meets must be booked in advance).
Over at Charlestown Harbour’s Shipwreck Treasure Museum, the Christmas festivities are topped off with miles of lights along the tunnels that were once used by bootleggers and pirates. It’s taking place between the 9th and the 31st December, and there is an entry charge for this one, so you need to book the Tunnel of Lights on their website.
6. Meet the Lord of Misrule at Winter Solstice in Penzance
Date: 21st December 2023
Penzance celebrates the feast of St Thomas/Winter Solstice with the Montol Solstice Festival on the shortest day of the year, which is known as winter solstice, and takes place on 21st December every year.
Wrap up warm and enjoy fire breathers, guisers and musicians, Christmas carol singers and the famous Geeze Dancers. There’s plenty of time to shop and eat in the market, and a Lord of Misrule is also chosen to oversee the festivities.
This is a really unique winter event that’s a lot of fun whether you celebrate Christmas or not.
7. Spend Christmas with the animals at Paradise Park
Dates: Unconfirmed for 2023
Paradise Park is one of the best wildlife sanctuaries in Cornwall, and is home to around 130 species of bird, plus red pandas, red squirrels, otters, miniature donkeys and more. It’s a lovely place to spend the day, especially if you’re looking for somewhere in Cornwall to take the kids.
They put on quite a few events throughout the year, and in previous years they have done something Christmassy to get in the festive spirit.
Although nothing has been confirmed yet for Christmas 2023, it’s worth keeping an eye on the Paradise Park events page to see if anything festive pops up – fingers crossed! If it doesn’t, we say you should still don your favourite ugly Christmas jumper and make a day of it.
8. Ice skate and enjoy a tropical Christmas at the Eden Project
Dates: Selected dates between the 1st and 30th December 2023
Christmas at the Eden Project is a great day (and night) out. This year you can step into their brand new after-dark immersive music and light experience in the Biomes, taking place on 1st – 3rd, 8th – 10th, 14th – 23rd and 27th – 30th December. Take in the beautiful lights, and then go ice skating for a truly magical time.
The incredible immersive lighting and soundscape in the Rainforest Biome lets you see the unique plants transform into a tropical wonderland.
Then in the Mediterranean Biome, there’s a Christmas spectacle with a bit of 1920s jazz, so you can get your toes tapping to Christmas classics performed by nine live musicians. There will be half-hour performances starting at 5.30pm, 6.30pm and 7.30pm.
9. Lose yourself in a maze of Christmas trees
Dates: Various events throughout the season
If one Christmas tree feels a bit too subtle, satiate your appetite for Christmas spruce with a visit to one of Cornwall’s Christmas Tree Festivals.
Usually hosted by the parish churches throughout the county – the festivals are very much community events, bringing people together by each decorating a Christmas tree which are then displayed together, often in the local church.
Keep an eye out on your local parish notices to see what Christmas Tree Festivals might pop up. If you’re a tree decorating aficionado, you’ll love seeing what others have done with their trees and get some ideas for your own!
10. See unique decorations in National Trust houses
Dates: 18th November 2023 – 7th January 2024
The grandest of all Christmas wreaths definitely hangs in the National Trust-owned Medieval Cotehele. This 60ft long flower garland is created each year from tens of thousands of flowers collected from across the National Trust estate and dried over the autumn. The giant garland adorns the Tudor Hall throughout December, but there are Christmassy things happening from 18th November onwards.
It’s super popular, so there is an entry fee for this one, and it’s best to book to see the garland via the National Trust website.
If you’re in the mood for more National Trust Cornwall Christmas fun, there’s also Trelissick, which is one of the most popular National Trust sites to visit from the 2nd December to the 31st December.
This year you can see beautiful displays and arrangements throughout the house, including the dining table laid for a festive feast in the West Library. Taking inspiration from Cornish heritage, and using Cornish tartan, they’re keeping it traditional and celebrating the uniqueness of the county.
You can find out more about what’s on (including Santa visits!) on the Trelissick website.
11. Take a (chilly) Christmas dip in the sea
Grab your swimsuit and a Santa hat, and head down to one of your local beaches for a bracing dip in the sea on Christmas Day (or Boxing Day, or New Year’s Day… whenever you fancy!) Cornwall has some of the best beaches in the country, and there’s no reason not to visit them in winter too.
Despite winter water temperatures of around 10 degrees, swimmers regularly brave the water without wetsuits – and sometimes in fancy Christmas dress. Some do it to raise money for charity, but you may want to just do it for the thrill.
If you are doing it with your own group, remember to keep an eye on weather conditions, be safe, and don’t forget to bring a towel and a flask of something hot. If you’d rather take an organised dip, there are often unofficial swims at beaches all around Cornwall.
The biggest events are Perranporth, Sennen Cove and Gyllyngvase in Falmouth, where some of the local cafes will open up to serve hot cider to the brave swimmers. The mood is celebratory, bringing together generations of locals and regular visitors – but blink and you’ll miss it as most festive swims in Cornwall only last a few minutes!
When you’re done, head to a unique Cornish pub to warm up.
At last count there were hundreds of craft fairs and Christmas markets planned for Christmas in Cornwall – with many offering events, activities and entertainment alongside craft and food stalls. Here are some of the best…
1. Heartlands Christmas Market
When: 2nd – 3rd December 2023
Where: Heartlands, Robinson’s Shaft, Pool, Redruth, TR15 3QY
This popular heritage and culture centre will be throwing open its doors for a fabulous and free event in December – the Heartlands Nadelik Christmas Market. Peruse the stalls for the perfect present, then enjoy food, drink, and live entertainment when you’re done.
2. Cornwall Christmas Market
When: 22nd – 23rd November 2023
Where: Eden Project, Bodelva, PL24 2SG
Cornwall’s biggest Christmas market attraction raises money for the Cornwall Community Foundation. After time browsing the stalls at the Cornwall Christmas Fair, take a wander around the Biomes and have a go on the ice rink.
3. Fowey Christmas Market
When: 8th – 10th December 2023
Where: Fowey Town Centre, PL23
The Fowey Christmas Market attracts tens of thousands of visitors from across the county and further afield. Regional traders will gather to sell everything from yuletide tipples to hand-crafted ornaments.
4. The Big Christmas Market Truro
When: 29th November – 24th December 2023
Where: Lemon Quay, Truro, TR1 2LW
Enjoy not only 60 independent traders from around Cornwall, but also the Truro Farmers Market which is running alongside this Christmas market – double the fun! There will be a range of festive activities across the city running throughout December and some great street food.
5. Padstow Christmas Festival
When: 7th – 10th December 2023
This is the festive foodie festival in Cornwall. Padstow has long been home to an array of talented and famous chefs – from Rick Stein to Michelin-starred Paul Ainsworth. Attracting tens of thousands of visitors, there are cooking demonstrations, locally brewed beers, food to buy, food to eat – and plenty of craft stalls for shopping at the Padstow Christmas Festival.
Cornwall is a wonderful place to spend a day out, and it’s even more stunning at Christmas. From meeting Santa to browsing Christmas markets to seeing an array of decorations and lights, to dunking yourself into freezing cold water (yes, an enjoyable activity!) there’s so much to entertain the whole family during the festive season in Cornwall.
Know of something else going on for Christmas in Cornwall? Let us know in the comments below so we can add it to our list!
Quick list: 16 Best Events for Christmas in Cornwall 2023
- Listen to Christmas carols in Truro Cathedral
- See Santa make an epic entrance
- Become Santa (and get your heart rate up!)
- Marvel at beautiful Cornish Christmas lights
- See the dazzling light shows
- Meet the Lord of Misrule at Winter Solstice in Penzance
- Spend Christmas with the animals at Paradise Park
- Ice skate and enjoy a tropical Christmas at the Eden Project
- Lose yourself in a maze of Christmas trees
- See unique decorations in National Trust houses
- Take a (chilly) Christmas dip in the sea
- Heartlands Christmas Market
- Cornwall Christmas Market
- Fowey Christmas Market
- The Big Christmas Market Truro
- Padstow Christmas Festival