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Christmas season to light up Reading town centre

Christmas shopping, dining and festive events

The Christmas season gets underway next week in Reading with the switch on of the town centre Christmas lights.

Over 450,000 magical lights and an eight metre tall bauble tree will be illuminated in the town centre on the afternoon of Saturday 18 November complete with festive live music in Broad Street, courtesy of Reading Business Improvement District.

Broad Street Mall will be holding a celebrity switch-on of the centre’s own christmas lights on Thursday 16 November at 4pm while the Oracle will start off its Christmas season with A River of Light extravaganza at 6pm on Thursday 16 November.

Reading town centre offers one of the best Christmas shopping experiences in the south east. With two of the region’s best shopping centres in the heart of the town, major high street brands in Broad Street and a vibrant independent sector, Reading offers a truly unique shopping experience.  You can choose from the big brands such as the Apple Store and Hollister or buy unique gifts from among other Reading-based artists at Jelly Christmas (29 Nov – 10 Dec) or one of Reading’s many independent stores. From mid-December, the shopping centres and major stores will have extended shopping hours (see Notes to editors).

There is an Extra Special Shopping Evening for the elderly and those with mobility difficulties on the evening of 4 December.  Many of Reading’s shops will also be taking part in Black Friday on 24 November for those wanting to bag a bargain ahead of Christmas.

The heralding of the Christmas season for many is the opening of the annual hexagon pantomime.  Curtain comes up for Peter Pan starring CBBC’s Justin Fletcher on 9 December.  A Christmas performance of a different nature can be found at Reading Rep’s production of Alby the Penguin Saves Christmas at Reading College from 16-24 December. The annual Civic Carol Concert takes place on Thursday 14 December at St Mary’s Minster.

Reading’s fourth Santa Run, raising money for good causes, takes place on Sunday 3 December,  while the following weekend, Reading Museum provides a LEGO opportunity to make your own Christmas decorations. The Museum’s Father Christmas Victorian Winter Grotto takes place on 16 December. For one weekend only in December a Reading Bus will be bringing a modern art gallery, Moving Gallery, to Broad Street before it starts taking the exhibition around Reading on Reading Buses routes.

Reading’s restaurants are offering a festive menu for Christmas parties from late November and there will be Continental Christmas food and drink on the Oracle Riverside from mid-November, while Broad Street will have traditional Christmas food stalls in the run up to Christmas.

Christmas events listings

Jelly Christmas

29 November - 10 December

Jelly Studios, Broad Street Mall

A special Open Studios event with festive workshops and masterclasses. Get a taste of behind the scenes at arts organisation Jelly, meet the artists and have the opportunity to purchase directly from them. Running alongside is a creative workshop programme - join in and create something festive, or learn something new. jelly.org.uk 

Peter Pan

9 Dec – 7 Jan 2018

The Hexagon

A magical journey to Neverland with the boy who never grew up. Starring Cbeebie's superstar Justin Fletcher as Mr Smee and Paul Morse as Nanny McSmee. A panto full of adventure, with a stunning set, spectacular song and dance routines, a lot of traditional panto slapstick, and of course, a ticking crocodile! Tickets: From £13 - £26.50. Group/school rates available. Relaxed and British Sign Language performances offered.

More information and booking at www.readingarts.com

Charity Santa Run

Sunday 3 December, 9:30am

Reading town centre

The fourth Santa Run is raising money for good causes. The 5km route starts and ends in Forbury Gardens taking in Broad Street, Oracle Riverside and Kennetside along the route. There is also a 1 km kids Santa Run for under 10s. Organised by the Rotary Club of Reading and sponsored by rocsearch.


Special Shopping Evening

Monday 4 December, 5pm -7pm

Broad Street and The Oracle

An extra special shopping evening for the elderly and those with mobility difficulties.  Special offers and entertainment from Theatretrain Reading, Festive singing from Moving On. Elves and Goodometer will be making an appearance to find out if we have been good enough to get a present this year! Special parking arrangements in Broad Street (enquire on 0118 937 2395). Shopmobility courtesy of The Oracle. www.reading.gov.uk/whatson

Moving Gallery

Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 December

Broad Street

A Reading Buses’ double-decker is transformed into a temporary, travelling art space. The bus gallery will be shown for the first time in Broad Street for one weekend. From there, it will start its journey on the bus routes of Reading. With generous support from Reading BID


Build in a Bauble: Christmas LEGO® Brick Workshop

Saturday 9 & Saturday 16 December     

Reading Museum                                                       
Work alongside talented locally-based international LEGO® brick expert Kevin Hall in these brilliant Christmas building sessions. Create your own mini Christmas models to fit inside a bauble - something truly unusual for the tree.

Ages 5+, 45-minute sessions starting at 10am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm & 3pm
£16 per person (includes bauble)

LEGO and the Brick and Knob configurations are trademarks of the LEGO Group, which does not sponsor, authorise or endorse this event. ©2016 the LEGO Group. Booking essential: 0118 937 3400

Civic Carol Concert

Thursday 14 December, 6.30pm

Reading Minster, St Mary’s Butts, Reading

A traditional service and carols re-telling the story of the Nativity with Reading Minster Choir and Reading Council Staff Choir. Free


Father Christmas’ Victorian Winter Grotto  

Saturday 16 December                                                                              

Reading Museum    

Step back into Christmases past in this special event and make a traditional decoration for your home. Compose a letter then present it to Father Christmas and receive a special gift before you leave. A magical experience for those that still believe! Our visitors absolutely loved our authentic version last year.

Families, half-hour sessions 10am - 12pm & 1pm - 3pm

£5 per person, booking essential: 0118 937 3400


Alby the Penguin Saves Christmas

Saturday 16 – Sunday 24 December inclusive (no performances on 17th)

Reading College Studio, Kings Road

Join Reading Rep this Christmas to meet Alby, a very special snow white penguin. The perfect festive treat for children aged 3 – 6 and their families.

Alby finds himself all alone at the South Pole when he stumbles across Santa’s present list left behind in the snow… Christmas isn’t going to happen unless the list is reunited with its owner! Can one very brave penguin save Christmas…?

An enchanting story full of music, puppetry and Christmas cheer.

Prices: £9 General admission, £7 Concessions (Under 18, Students, Over 60, Registered Disabled) Times: 12 midday and 3pm

Booking through readingrep.com  




Black Friday

Friday 24 November

Many of Reading town centre retailers will be taking part in Black Friday, the annual one day pre-Christmas sale day. If you love a bargain, don’t miss out on deals at major town centre retailers such as John Lewis, Debenhams and Marks and Spencer. The Oracle will be open 9am – 9pm on Black Friday.


Oracle Shopping Centre  - Extended trading commences from 11th December.

11 – 16 December 9am – 9pm

18 – 23 December 9am – 10pm, Sunday trading 11am – 5pm.

The Riverside will be open till late throughout the festive period.


Broad Street Mall

Christmas late trading commences Monday 4 December when the Mall will be open from 8.00am to 9.00pm* Monday to Saturday. Sunday trading hours are 10.00am -5.00pm (Christmas Eve 10am – 4pm). Throughout December, meet Santa and his elves.


John Lewis

11 – 16 December, 9am – 8pm

Sunday 17 December, 10:30am – 5pm

18 December – 23 December, 9am – 9pm

Sunday 24 December – 10:30pm – 5pm


Marks & Spencer

Monday 11 December – Wednesday 20 December, 8am – 9pm

21 – 23 December, 7am – 9pm

24 December 11am – 5pm



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