Well, here we are again back in festive mood after last year’s cancellation of Christmas. It didn’t make much difference to we singletons with no close family but it will be great to get together with friends on the run-up to the big day. Bearing that in mind, here is the first of a short series of articles letting you know of the delights our favourite city has on offer.

I will begin in the Merrion Centre as that is where Santa will be making his home for the next few weeks before he goes for his Covid test in order to be able to visit children all around the world. As I write this, the news is that the travel red list has been reintroduced but, as he always wears red anyway, that should pose no problem.

He can be found relaxing in a back room at the rear of The Candy Cane Club so pop along to see the old boy each Saturday from 11.00am to 6.00pm and from 11.00am to 5.45pm Sundays. From 20th December until 24th December he will be there between 11.00am and 6.00pm each day although he has to leave at 4.00pm on Christmas Eve to go to work. For Santa Claus WFH is not an option! I owe him a huge debt of gratitude as he has single-handedly made being an old, overweight bald man with grey beard cool. Merry Christmas, Nick.

From one shopping centre to another, this time Trinity where the theme is winter rather than specifically Christmas. There is obviously an abundance of Christmas trees as well so it all looks very festive.

Should you be a winter sports fan then this is the place for you. Not only is there an Après Ski bar (see feature image) but also a ski lift to get you there. It is called Off Piste but it doesn’t actually go anywhere so the two words should probably be transposed to express how I felt at having to use the escalator rather than arrive in style!

When you do get to the upper floor you come across the brilliant Winter Fair, a room dedicated to seasonal games. These were superbly done and I had a lot of fun trying a couple of them out.

The first one which caught my eye was the Ski Race which is a modern incarnation of the amusement arcade game with model horses. You roll the ball up the board and your skier advances each time it disappears down one of the holes – or not, as the case may be.

Next up was Air Hockey

Finally there was Blizzard, a twist on the Crystal Maze game whereby different coloured balls are sent swirling at great speed round a clear cylinder. The object is to catch as many as you can in a set time and put them into the container. White balls count as one, pink ones as minus one and the blue ball doubles your score.

Everything here has been done to the highest standard, as you would expect from Trinity so pop along and enjoy the fun and games.

Finally in this instalment we have an art installation called My Christmas Home. It is situated in an adapted container in Bond Court so casual visitors to the city might miss it, which is why I am urging you not to. It has been created by Found Fiction in conjunction with LeedsBID and focuses on what Christmas spaces mean to different people.

There will be a new group each week until Wednesday, 29th December. When I got the sneak preview it was the kitchen of NHS nurse Leanne and her two children, Dylan and Gracie.

The idea is that you ring the doorbell which activates the installation. You can pick up a cup of coffee and a mince pie and go through into the house. The projection on the left shows the view from their window and we pass a Christmas Tree before arriving at the kitchen where the family are getting some food and goodies ready for Christmas Day.

The preparations are done and the spread completed but instead if them tucking into the nosh, they pack it into rucksacks because Leanne, one of the heroes who helped us through the pandemic, is on duty so gets changed into her uniform and drops the children off to be looked after for the day.

This certainly cuts through the froth and glitter of the commercial aspect of the season but it is not preachy or maudlin. Dylan and Gracie accept it as being the norm and off they go to enjoy the day, albeit without mum.

The other people featured will have their own stories to tell so go along and see what they are. There is a nice twist in that there are some Christmas Cards provided which you can write and send to those featured.

Whatever you do this Christmas, try to spend a day in leeds to enjoy these, and other, attractions on offer. I will be giving you more ideas in the next few days.

I would like to thank LeedsBID and Chapter 81 for the tour and early admission to some of the attractions.

All photographs by Stan Graham

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