The dates listed on this post are for 2014, many of these events will return, but the dates will be updated closer to the holiday season.
Here list of a few unique Christmas experiences that aren’t centered around shopping. Thanks to Susu for contributing to the list and for the idea.
Advent at Kommern – Nov 29-30
(From the website) The traditional museum event lets the big and small plunge deep into history and conveys much of how farm families once prepared for the Christmas. Thus, performing at the farmhouse parlors of the museum houses pre-Christmas house music is sung together with the guests and told stories. Children to make Christmas decorations and gifts at a craft room and the adults to practice the old village school in ancient calligraphy for Christmas post.
For the classical Advent fragrances baked apples, spiced biscuits and gingerbread are made in the museum ovens. In the Lower Rhine farms of the museum housekeepers ready to roast chestnuts, honey cake and brandy punch. Besenbinder, mousetrap maker, weavers, wood carvers and many other craftsmen demonstrate their traditional skills. Lantern tours offer each at 16.30 the opportunity to see the historical museum villages in a very different light. Inside and outside the historic ballroom from Pingsdorf there is a small Christmas market with handpicked deals: leather workers, bookbinding, hand knitted, Adventskranzbinderei and much more.
Looking at the flyer, it appears that each house will have something special inside to see, some have food and drinks while others show handy crafts.
Candlelight festival and carols, Gouda, NL – Dec 12
(From the website) Candle Night, or Kaarsjesavond in Dutch, is a famous annual Christmas event in the city of Gouda in western Netherlands. This nighttime tradition is marked by countless lit candles, singing, and festivities. Thousands flock to Gouda each year to attend Candle Night, including important national and international guests. The event is held on a Tuesday night ahead of Christmas at the central market square in front of the Gothic town hall. Street and electric lights are turned off, and instead the night is lit by candles placed in windows facing and around the square. The Mayor gives a speech and lights a towering Christmas tree adorned with thousands of light bulbs to create a truly magical experience. Choirs gather to sing Christmas carols with audiences enthusiastically joining in. Attendees visit nearby churches and museums following the celebration. Gouda became known for producing quality candles around the mid-19th century, although it is probably most famous for its other waxy product—Gouda cheese. Gouda candles are made from a natural wax that burns steadily for hours and can be purchased around the city as souvenirs. The city of Gouda is not only magical during Candle Night. Pretty canals, historic churches, and Dutch architecture make a great setting for a city that is also known for its breweries, smoking pipes, and stroopwafels. Gouda is easily accessible by two train stations.
Dickens Fest, Deventer, NL – Dec 20-21
The historic center of the city of Deventer provides the backdrop for the Dickens Festival. Well over 900 characters that feature in the famous books by the 19th-century British writer Charles Dickens come to life. Come and meet Scrooge, Oliver Twist, Mr. Pickwick, Christmas carolers, orphans, drunks, office clerks, and the upper class. Enjoy the aromas of English punch and roasted chestnuts, thousands of fairy lights, and tall Christmas trees. The Dickens Festival fills the whole center of Deventer with the heartwarming ambience of Christmas. Every year, there’s a market on the main square with 200 stands. The Christmas ambience continues in the churches in the city center with a cultural program. Different choirs, orchestra and vocal ensembles perform Christmas music. Not only in the street, but also behind the windows, in the houses and in the little shops and galleries the romantic time of Dickens will revive. During the Dickens Festival in December the shops are open on Saturday and Sunday. Well over 160,000 people come to this festival annually. Admission is free, so be prepared for queues at the entrance.
More info: http://www.dickensfestijn.nl
Dickens Days, Bilzen, BE – Dec 20-21
(From their website) The center of Bilzen is transformed into a cozy English Christmas town from the Victorian era. On every street corner, the visitors collide in characters from the stories of Charles Dickens, there is music and you can enjoy delicacies. The visitor in various cozy Dickens cottages enjoy delicious ‘winterkos': pancakes, meat skewers, pea soup, muffins, heartwarming gin, hot chocolate, mulled wine, tartiflette, and grilled snacks. In a large beer tent, the lovers taste a wide range of special Christmas beers. Especially for children there are workshops and they go back in time with a special photo-booth.
During the Dickens’Dagen on Sunday the stores open the doors so that the visitors can do Christmas shopping.
World’s Largest Advent Calendar, Gengerbach, DE – Nov 30 – Dec 23
For 16 years, the town hall of Gengenbach has been turned into a magical attraction every year at Advent: its 24 windows turn it into the largest Advent calendar in the world. Come and marvel at the beauty: around 100,000 visitors came from far and wide to see the Advent calendar last year. About 5 hours away from Tri-Border area. More info:
Winter Evenings at Bokrijk – Dec 26-30
(From their website) From 26 to December 30 you can enjoy various nostalgic fairground rides in Bokrijk. Grandparents get nice memories from their childhood, while parents and children enjoy ancient, unknown, but no less spectacular acts and play.
A nostalgic fairground like this took place in Flanders, with activities and attractions from the beginning to the middle of the 20th century. Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the time. Because now there’s trump atmosphere, with lots of music, freak voostel men and all kinds of goodies. So you and the whole family can have fun on the Grand Carousel, the carousel, the cakewalk or have driving fun along with the old subway train. Typical winter snacks make it extra fun on this trip. Your visit ends with the fireworks at 20:30.