in association with St Fagans National Museum of History
What a wonderfully festive and feel-good evening we had at St Fagans Christmas Nights yesterday.
The National Museum of History looked so beautiful decorated for Christmas. I actually gasped when we walked in and saw the new entrance building all lit up, the twinkling lights overhead and the historical buildings shining bright with festive colours.
The Pen-rhiw chapel was in our view as waked in and so we headed straight there for some carol singing led by a very charismatic choir master who had us up and singing and perfecting our choruses.
I could have stayed there all night – but obviously we were keen to explore the rest of the open air museum. It’s one of our favourite days out at the best of times so they were excited to see what it was like at Christmas time. I remember visiting at Christmas as a child myself so being able to take the three of them plus Cardiff Daddy along as part of our role as blogger ambassadors for the museum was very special.
Next up was Maestir School where children could write letters to Father Christmas. My three have already written multiple letters to the man in red – but they thought he might like to receive some pictures among all the requests for gifts so they filled their letters with festive drawings.
The tiny rural school is one of their favourite buildings at St Fagans and they loved being able to sit on the wooden desks and benches for the first time.
We popped their letters in red envelops and posted them in the little red post box on the wall of the Blaenwaun Post Office. This isn’t always open when we visit but the post mistress was in attendance tonight and invited us in for a little look around. It’s Wales’s smallest post office and the roaring fire made it so cosy and warm.
From here our attention was caught by Jimmy Juggle juggling with fire on the nearby Gwalia Green. As if that wasn’t impressive enough he then started swallowing the flamed batons and breathing out fire. My children thought it was incredible – although I quickly reminded them this was not one to try at home!
Next up was gingerbread biscuit decorating in the Miners’ Institute, accompanied by a brass band playing festive songs. As well as traditional carols such as Good King Wenceslas they did a brilliant rendition of Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?. The gingerbread biscuits were amazing – thick and delicious homemade shapes including people stars and baubles with such a beautiful spicy aroma. The Miners’ Institute looked impressive illuminated by red and green lights and a Santa on his sleigh whizzing by every so often.
We loved the Christmas stories in the cockpit. There were no books; rather traditional storytelling with both Welsh and English sessions available. Our story was about animals visiting baby Jesus in the stable and our storyteller had us all singing while pretending to be various animals.
After a quick trip to the traditional fairground (£2 a ride) where my children had one ride each we headed to see Father Christmas at Ciliwent Farmhouse. We had a wait of around 15 minutes in the barn part of the farm house (where it was a little dark so the torches on our phones came in handy) before being led in to meet him.
Dressed in red and sat on a wooden bench near the huge open fireplace and with long wreaths of green leaves contrasting against the white stone walls it was a truly beautiful old fashioned scene. When Father Christmas realised my children spoke Welsh he switched languages and asked them all sorts of questions and told them a couple of little stories about his job. They were then each given a small gift of a wooden yo yo which they were all thrilled with.
We also saw the Mari Llwyd procession going past a few times – a wooden horse’s head decorated with ribbons and lit torches being carried by the accompanying actors. It was quite dramatic and great to be able to tell my children more about this Welsh custom.
The museum is usually free to visit. However Christmas Nights is a ticketed event that needs to be pre-booked costing £15 for adults and £8 or children. You do get a lot included in the price though; there were no extra charges for meeting Father Christmas or the gingerbread decorating for example. Parking – which usually costs a fiver – was also free for the evening.
With such a wide range of activities on offer we would have loved another three hours to explore everything else the museum had to offer.
We didn’t make to to Llwyn-yr-Eos farm house to see Mother Christmas preparing for Christmas. We also ran out of time to get to the craft workshops in the new Weston Centre for Learning as well as the Makers’ Market where on previous visits my children have loved decorating ceramic ornaments (charge still apply during Christmas Nights events).
The museum seemed less busier than expected – partly due to the rain perhaps but also because sadly a road traffic accident had meant the traffic was extra busy and lots of people struggled to get there. I arrived at 6pm with the children but Cardiff Daddy was closer to 7pm because he got caught up in the traffic after work. We met one family who had taken two hours to get there from Bridgend and whose friends had ending up abandoning their night because it was proving so difficult to get there. Such a shame.
Although there were plenty of lights on all the paths we found the torches on our phones came in handy at points, such as when waiting to meet Father Christmas. Also do wrap up warm! It might sound obvious but it is cold at night when walking between the different buildings. Some of the paths were slightly muddy so wellies are useful although not essential.
Our final stop of the night as we left the museum was some more carol singing in the new entrance building in both Welsh and English – the perfect end to our evening sending us home in a really festive mood.
St Fagans Christmas Nights continues on Thursday 7th, Friday 8th and Saturday 9th December from 6pm-9pm. Tickets cost £15 for adults, £8 children under 16 years and under twos are free.
Tickets are selling fast so do book quickly to avoid disappointment. See the website for more information.
Parking is free for those attending Christmas Nights.