Christmas festival still spectacular

Santa arrives

The day dawned cold, but thankfully dry, on Saturday, December 7 for the Rye Christmas Festival. The organisers were determined that this year – the fifth year of the festival in its current form, and now spreading over a second day – would be the most successful yet. They didn’t disappoint.

With roads closed and traffic thankfully banned from the High Street, shoppers, visitors and spectators were already starting to gather as Father Christmas, having parked his aquatic sleigh at Strand Quay, and preceded by the never-undervoiced town crier took to an immaculate and decorated carriage and pair for his procession to Santa’s Grotto, where he was kept busy for most of the day. Added to the Santa theme this year was the Elf Academy for all aspiring little helpers for Santa.

Santa with elves

Along with some new innovations, all the usual Christmas attractions that have made this event in the past were there: small animals and reindeer were ensconced in their temporary homes for the day from early on, and it was good to see the more enterprising citizens of the town wearing period costume, reflecting the “Christmas Past” theme of this year.

There was music of every sort wherever one went, from the Wall of Sound choir with carols and Christmas songs at the foot of Mermaid Street to the Bling Crosbies, having swapped their bling for a seasonal outdoor look, in the High Street. There were other groups, with some singing carols and others performing music that had little to do with Christmas, but were jolly good, anyway.

Christmas pudding race

After lunch from the lovely old Citroen vans selling street food, the outside action livened up with the start of the races. As always the Christmas pudding race was hotly contested, with the spectators cheering on their favourites. And if the adults showed their competitive streak, they had nothing on some of the children in the kids races who showed Olympic scale determination to get their puddings back.

Next came the tug of war, giving men (and some women) a chance to show their macho side. Who won the events? It doesn’t really matter, the point is that they were a lot of quite noisy fun, enjoyed by competitors and spectators alike.

Father Christmas heads the parade

In the meantime, there was a riotous version of Cinderella in the Rye Community Centre, Punch and Judy in Cinque Ports Street, the snow globe, kids entertainment in the craft shop and elsewhere shops and pubs doing a good trade.

And then it was time for the parade. It didn’t seem quite as big this year as previously, but, no matter, Santa was still there, giving the reindeer a rest and back in his carriage. There were bagpipes, the Ryebellion drummers, 19th century costumes, children with lanterns and many followers who joined in as the procession moved through the town.

Finally, because, after all, it is Christmas, there was the carol concert in St Mary’s. The choir had been rehearsing during the afternoon to lead the congregation in all those favourites that make Christmas, well, Christmas.

Our thanks to members of the Rye and District Camera Club for all the images.

Image Credits: Tony Ham , Veryan Pollard , Paul Whiteman .


  1. I was the second performer in the High Street on the day (noon til 1pm), playing saxophone and my setlist was entirely festive, consisting of carols and Christmassy numbers such as those well known ones by Mud, Wizzard, Slade, Cliff Richard, Chris De Burgh. Also jazzy Santa Baby, Baby It’s Cold Outside, Chestnuts Roasting etc. I ended my hour with a poem I wrote myself, ‘Don’t Forget The Christ In Christmas’, about the true message of Christmas.

    I was astounded by the acoustic guitar singer songwriter following me, with nothing to do with Christmas and his lyrics had swearing in. It was meant to be a family event!


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