I'm not a fan of Christmas. I do have one guilty pleasure though, something which I even managed to do while I was in Nicaragua last year - and that's to watch It's A Wonderful Life while crying my eyes out. I'll do that this year. For everyone else, here's a round-up of how to celebrate this year…
Raymond Briggs' The Bear at Waterside Arts
A book written by Raymond Briggs, The Bear is a story about a girl living with a polar bear and the magical adventure they end up getting themselves in. I've not read it, but I image they watched The Golden Compass together while eating Fox's Glacier Mints. I can't think of any more polar bear references so I'll stop. Waterside Arts in Sale are putting on a fantastic production of the book this Christmas, which looks set to be a lovely bit of magic for any kids who go to see it. Perhaps some adults too.
Elf The Musical at The Lowry
There's not much that can be said by my idiotic self which could either encourage or dissuade you from going to see Elf at The Lowry this Christmas. If you like the film - about a human Elf called Buddy who travels to New York to find his real dad, only to discover that he is a gangster in the 70's, responsible for the killing of Paulie Gatto and probably countless others. It's got Ben Forster in it, who played the role in the West End and Liz McLarnon, who was in Atomic Kitten and is mint.
Nativity The Musical at Palace Theatre
Nativity plays at Watersheddings Primary School were always a dismal affair, usually involving some poor sod putting a tea towel on their head and being so nervous that they wet themselves in front of everyone's parents. My final year there I got the chance to play Joseph but it was ruined because I was forced to hold Kimberley Walker's hand throughout. This wasn't a bad thing at all - but as an 11 year old - was pretty embarrassing. Especially considering the fact that she would have rather have spit in my face than hold my hand. I presume this version of Nativity is based on that film that came out a few years back - which I've not seen. Or ever intend to.
Dick Whittington at Oldham Coliseum
Watching a pantomime at the Oldham Coliseum was a yearly tradition for the kids of Counthill School - buying a choc ice during the interval with the 50p that your mam gave you, and pissing about on the bus back because you'd had too much sugar. I'm sure it's still the same and this year sees Dick Whittington come to town - even though he's supposed to be in London, chipping bits of gold off the pavement and getting rich. Quite how he manages to fit all his belongings in a bindle is anyone's guess, but there should be all the usual pantomime tropes to gloss over these plot holes and keep everyone happy.
The Hallé at Bridgewater Hall
If Home Alone has taught us anything it's that assaulting someone in your own home is perfectly acceptable in America. It's also taught us that toothbrush retailers should have a better understanding of their product, as well as the well-known fact that classical music and choirs go together with Christmas like Harry and Marv in prison. So you've got the Halle at The Bridgewater Hall this Christmas, with a wide range of different shows on offer including a Family Carol Show and even The Snowman. Absolute classic.
A Christmas Carol at Bolton Octagon
Everyone knows the story of A Christmas Carol by now. Michael Caine is a grumpy old man who lives and works in Victorian London. On Christmas Eve he is visited by a band of puppets, affectionately known as Muppets, who proceed to show him the past, present and future, in order to highlight the errors of his ways and stop him being such a miserable sod all the time. You can watch it at the Bolton Octagon this December, but unfortunately this version doesn’t include any Muppets. Or Michael Caine. Sorry.
As you'd expect from the gang over at Brasserie Abode, this Christmas looks to be a rather elegant and exciting affair filled with some delicious dishes and lashings of alcohol. They're offering a range of options including a Festive Brasserie Dinner, a Festive Lunch and even a Christmas Day menu in case you get stuck in the city like Steve Martin in Planes, Trains & Automobiles. For more detailed, and better written information, click below.
Brasserie Abode, 107a Piccadilly, Manchester M1 2DB
Roast dinner and gig specialists Gorilla have a range of menus available for your Christmas party, as well as a Christmas buffet if you don't fancy actually sitting down with your work colleagues and speaking to them like human beings. Their options start at £25 per person for 2 courses, and as you'd expect, the menu consists of all your Christmas faves including a cheeseboard.
If you find yourself in Whitefield this Christmas and are looking to celebrate with some top food and plenty of bevvies, then you can't go far wrong with the fantastic One88. They've got a pretty extensive package for parties over the festive season, starting at £22 per head. As well as this, they also have an extravagant Christmas Day menu available - which means you wouldn't have to mess about basting turkey, wrapping sausages in bacon or washing the dishes - it's all done for you. Thanks!
One88 Bar and Kitchen, 188 Bury New Rd, Whitefield, Manchester M45 6QF
Starting at £34 per person for two courses, Grafene's Christmas menu is a thing of beauty - not suprising considering they know how to do British cuisine properely over there. Expect the classics, as well as some rather unique dishes including their Smoked Ham terrine with mulled cider jelly - which to me sounds like the best thing to eat at Christmas ever. Well, except cheese. Which I'm sure they'll be able to sort you out with too.
Grafene, 6, 55 King St, Manchester M2 4LQ
Board, bread and wine specialists Bakerie in the Northern Quarter are offering a rather extensive Christmas menu this December, starting from only £23.95 per person (which includes a lovely glass of fizz on arrival). The food is always on point in Bakerie so you can't really go wrong. Unless you have too much wine from their Wine Jukebox and start slagging off your boss to their face. They probably deserve it anyway.
Bakerie, 45 Lever St, Manchester M1 1DN
Don Giovanni have so many things going on this Christmas that they had to fill a full double-sided A3 flyer up with everything, and that's still not enough. First of all, there is their Per Tutti pop-up to consider, which will be open right up until the New Year - serving some rather lovely pizzas as well as your usual favourite pasta and antipasti dishes. As well as this, Don Giovanni will be offering extensive Christmas party menus, as well as a special menu for Christmas Day.
Don Giovanni, Peter House, 1-2 Oxford St, Manchester M1 5AN
Try something a bit different...
Christmas at Scene is unlikely to be a fully traditional affair - what with them specialising in Indian Street Food - but who cares about tradition anyway!? Pulling inspiration from the subcontinent, Scene are offering a Festive Fayre - representing the Indian Christmas tradition of Midnight Mass and featuring a large feast of many different dishes, all placed in the centre of the table for all to share. Like a real feast, there's no need to choose - you'll get everything on the menu so you can try new things, or just hog your favourite - slapping the hands of anyone who gets too close. You can check the menu here.
Scene Indian Street Kitchen, 4 Left Bank, Manchester M3 3AN
Cane and Grain
Although you might not think that Ribs and Booze were very Christmassy - you're wrong. When little baby Jesus was in his manger, surrounded by animals and his mam and dad, one of the three kings - Balthazar I think it was, was tucking into a lovely rack of Baby Back Ribs - and now you can too. To be fair, the Christmas menu does include some great Smoked Turkey, but when there's ribs, I doubt you'd want anything else. Especially when they are Cane & Grain ribs.
Cane & Grain, 49 -51 Thomas Street, Manchester M4 1NA
If you want to have a curry on Christmas Day like my mum, then you're in for a treat at Zouk, who are offering a 6 course meal including a roasted Leg of Lamb and a Chicken Berry Biriyani, as well as the obligatory bubbles and crackers. They are also offering a Christmas Party Banquet for groups, featuring a selection of their brilliant Indian creations, as well as a Christmas Tiffin Lunch Menu throughout December.
Zouk, 5, The Quadrangle, Chester Street, Manchester M1 5QS
Sushi specialists are providing us Mancs with something a bit different this year for Christmas, because let's face it, who would ever think to have raw fish wrapped in rice in December!? Well, there's definitaly plenty of people who would, and with it being Sakana's usual fresh, rather delicious options - you could do far worse. There's loads of options, each with a series of 'waves' of sushi for everyone to dig into. Try and get a few sake's down you too - you might as well do it proper.
Sakana, 23 Peter St, Manchester M2 5QR
The Finest team have really been caning Cottons recently, and I've found myself in there pretty much every Friday night or weekend for the past 2 months. Not only do they sell Big Wave, but it has a great atmosphere and some very nice staff members. If you fancy heading over this Christmas for your party, they can offer you a Whole Roasted Sucking Pig - which would not only satisfy up to 20 people, it will also look damn impressive when it turns up. It's Christmas - treat yourself and go for the Henry VIII look.
Cottonopolis, 16 Newton St, Manchester M1 2AE
Share warmth with a big crowd...
From Friday 10th November
Okay. Remember at the beginning when I said I was the wrong person for the job - writing about Christmas? Because I hate it? Well, the Christmas Markets don't do anything to elevate these feelings at all. But, most people absolutely love them - regardless of how busy they get or how expensive (a mug of!!) booze costs. They are starting extra early this year - the 10th of November - so there's more time to get your free cheese samples and buy a wooden toy that will never get played with.
Winter Wonderland at Event City
There's a massive Winter Wonderland down at Hyde Park in London which features the kind of stuff you'd see at our Christmas Markets, except they've also littered it with loads of rides, loads more bars and even a pub which slowly spins around like a carousel. Well, I don't think this Winter Wonderland will be as big, but it should be as extensive with loads of rides, attractions, real reindeer and even Santa knocking about with his massive buckle. It's apparently the UK's largest indoor Christmas theme park and considering the weather here is usually shite - it's probably for the best.
Christmas Lights Switch On
Saturday 4th November, 7.30pm
Personally I think it's too early, but November the 4th sees the Christmas lights get turned on in the city centre, and as usual there is a massive party in Albert Square, complete with some famous people and a massive firework display at the end. Ignoring the city’s numerous pot holes, the council tend to spend a fair whack of bunce on the fireworks - so they're usually really good. There's also performances by SIGALA, Tokio Myers and Yes Lad - all of whom I know nothing about. The cast of Elf will be there though - if you're looking for a reason to attend. Lovely Liz. Anyway it kicks off at 7.30pm and is FREE.
Trafford Centre Lights
Thursday 2nd November, 7.30pm
Before you head on down to Albert Square for the City Centre lights, you might as well cruise over to the Trafford Centre and experience their big event first. Highlight of the night will undoubtedly be Dave Haslam teaming up with experimental orchestra Manchester Camerata - belting out some classic dance tracks, probably mixed in with plenty of Christmas tunes. It's free, and they've spent a million quid on the lights alone so it would be a shame if nobody noticed them.
Manchester Ice Rink
Once again there will be an Ice Skating rink in the city centre where you can practise your spins, flicks and falls while your boyfriend takes a Boomerang for Instagram. They won't tell me where the new location of the rink will be, which is a bit annoying, but they promise that it will be set up and ready to go from the 15th November. I don't think they've decided how much it will be either because I can't find any of that information - but it's Christmas - you're going to spend a bomb anyway so don't worry about it.
You may not have heard of The Range, and that's probably because it's only just opened over in Spinningfields. If you have heard of The Range, then you'll probably know that it's a swanky golf club in the city, offering a selection of state-of-the-art golf simulators in which to practise your swing and get some wear out of those cheque trousers you bought. Having such simulators on hand makes it perfect for a Christmas party - where you can show off to your colleagues how well you can swing a stick at a ball, all the while enjoying a menu of some great looking dishes and plenty of booze!
The Range, Leftbank, Spinningfields, Manchester, M3 3AN
Black Dog Ballroom & Dog Bowl
With such a wide range of things to do at Black Dog, not to mention the fact that there always seems to be something going on - it seems like a great choice when it comes to celebrating Christmas. They have pool tables, a rooftop bar, Dog Bowl, the Underdog, booths of all sizes and even karaoke, ensuring there is something for everyone - no matter what the size of the crew. I once did karaoke a few years back for a Christmas party and it was one of the best things I've ever done. One of the best renditions of 'All Alone for Christmas' ever too.
Black Dog Ballroom,
NQ, 52 Church St, Manchester M4 1PW
NWS, 11-13 New Wakefield St, Manchester M1 5NP
Dog Bowl, Whitworth St W, Manchester M1 5WW
Junkyard Golf Club
If you're looking for something a bit different for your Christmas Party, then it doesn’t get more different (or mental) than Junkyard Golf Club. They'll be offering your gang a chance to pot some balls on one of their courses, have some cocktails in one of their bars and scoff some food from their very capable kitchen. They want me to tell you to expect slushy cocktails too, which fit in with Christmas perfectly - because they are fucking freezing.
Junkyard Golf Club, 1, First St, Manchester M15 4FN
Watch your favourite Christmas flick...
Movies at HOME
As you would expect from a venue that took over the Cornerhouse, this Christmas sees HOME showing some of the best Christmas movies ever made, including everyone's favourite - and definitely the best - It's A Wonderful Life (from 9th Dec). My only non-cheese related Christmas tradition, watching Jimmy Steward attempt to leave Bedford Falls is one of my only guilty pleasures in life, and a chance for me to cry my eyes out without being judged. HOME will also have a Tim Burton season, who seems to really enjoy Christmas, what with Edward Scissorhands (8th Dec), The Nightmare Before Christmas (9th & 13th Dec) and Batman Returns (18th Dec) all getting involved in the festive spirit.
Miracle on 34th Street @ Stockport Plaza
Friday 17th November, 11am & 7.30pm
Here we have the classic 1947 film where Santa Claus gets put on trial for not existing, even though he quite clearly exists. It's the greatest courtroom drama since OJ Simpson struggled with that leather glove, and an absoulte tear-jerker of a Christmas film. This 40's version is much better than the newer one as well which featured that girl from Matilda and John Hammond from Jurassic Park.
Push the boat out...
Randall & Aubin
Even though they specialise in seafood, with daily fresh specials galore - Randall & Aubin are offering a traditional Christmas for anyone looking to have a festive get together in December - but with a bit of a twist here and there. Sure, you could opt for the 'Warwickshire bronze cranberry stuffed crown of turkey' but you'd be a bit silly not to give the seafood option a try - especially considering that it's the whole raison d'etre of Randall and Aubin in the first place. One of the options is Baked Cod with a Lancashire cheese and brioche crust which just sounds divine.
Randall & Aubin, 64 Bridge St, Manchester M3 3BN
The Lowry Hotel
One of my best Christmas parties was attending a Murder Mystery somewhere in Cheshire. It wasn’t enjoyable because of the meal (I was too drunk) or the actual mystery (I was too drunk), no - it was the chance to dress up in some 1920's garb and prance around like I owned the place. You can do the same this Christmas with The Lowry Hotel, who are putting on a season of Great Gatsby themed events and parties. Starting from the 30th November, they have 9 dates in which you can enjoy a slap up meal, as well as some 20's entertainment. Head here for more information and the chance to WIN a Christmas meal for up to 10. https://www.thelowryhotel.com/festive-events/festive-competition
Lowry Hotel, 50 Dearmans Pl, Chapel Wharf, Salford, Manchester M3 5LH
On the night of the 8th December, The Principal will be packed out with blokes carrying mistletoe and girls wearing them flashing Santa hats as they host their Weekend Christmas Party Night in the Ballroom. There's complimentary drinks and canapés, followed by a three course meal, a live band and a disco - all perfect for trying to cop off with Derek in HR who you've been checking out since you saw his six-pack on Facebook in July. Party packages start from £69.
The Principal, Oxford St, Manchester M60 7HA
A round up of things to do and places to go in Manchester wouldn't be complete without an entry from the Tattu lot, who continue to bang out excellent Chinese cuisine over there in Spinningfields, even with a new Leeds location to take care of. As you would expect, they have a rather comprehensive Christmas set up, with options to suit any size party and any sized wallet. Their priciest number includes Szechuan Lobster and everyone's favourite - Beef Fillet and Caramel Soy.
Tattu, 3, 4 Hardman Square, Gartside St, Manchester M3 3EB
Have a Jolly Good Sing-a-long...
Mariah Carey at Manchester Arena
Sunday 10th December, 6.30pm
Singer of one of the biggest and most ensuring Christmas songs ever, Mariah Carey is heading to the Manchester Arena to most likely sing a load of new songs that nobody knows, before waiting right ‘til the encore to play the songs you know. Apparently she's a right diva, with a rider as long as Mr Tickle's forearm, so if she manages to actually turn up, and actually makes it onto the stage without having a hissy-fit, then you should enjoy a good old knees up.
Manchester Arena, Victoria Station, Hunts Bank, Manchester M3 1AR
Slade at Manchester Academy
Sunday 17th December, 7pm
Slade managed to create the perfect song when they came up with Merry Christmas Everybody. Not only has it managed to pay for all of their mortgages, cars and divorces since 1974, but it's become the quintessential Christmas song at any party or event you're likely to attend in December. The lads will be playing at the Manchester Academy, which is impressive considering they are probably about 100 years old by now. Hopefully Noddy hasn't lost the ability to scream "It's Christmas" at any opportune moment.
Ultimate Power - Christmas Special
Friday 15th December, 10.30pm
A round up from Ben Brown wouldn't be complete without the obligatory Ultimate Power shout out - mostly in the vain hope that they will let me have some free tickets or at the very least let me onto the stage to piss about with an inflatable guitar. You should expect a packed evening at the Ritz, including loads of glitter guns, plenty of fancy dress and enough Power Ballads to keep you singing into the New Year. I suspect they will include plenty of Christmas songs in there too.
Christmas Queens 2017 at Academy
Thursday 14th December, 7.30pm
After selling out last year, Christmas Queens is back at Manchester Academy for a rip-roaring evening of music, songs and cabaret, hosted by Michelle Visage. The line-up includes Peppermint, Ivy Winters, Thorgy Thor and Sharon Needles and to be fair, they could all just be random words or a trick being played on me by someone at Academy because I don't have a clue what's going on. But if you're a fan of RuPaul's Drag Race, and enjoy a bloody good night, then you'll understand and presumably be excited. You can get your tickets here.