Christmas events in Essex: Lights, late night shopping & festive celebrations

PUBLISHED: 10:28 28 November 2017 | UPDATED: 09:53 11 January 2018

Carols around the Christmas tree in Great Easton (c) Andrew, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Carols around the Christmas tree in Great Easton (c) Andrew, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


Louise Lloyd gears up for Christmas with a look at some of the festive markets, town fairs and spectacular light switching on ceremonies you can find around the county


This beautiful market town certainly knows how to make the festive season very special for local residents and visitors, and will once again be pulling out all the stops to make this a Christmas to remember. The Ancient Flitch Market and local businesses will be hosting a free family Christmas Light Switch On event on December 2 from 3pm, with a special appearance from Father Christmas.

Nikki Anthony, owner of the fashion boutique Wardrobe in the town, believes events like these bring people together, creating fun and an opportunity for everyone to explore what Great Dunmow has to offer. ‘The atmosphere is always brilliant and full of Christmas spirit,’ says Nikki.

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‘It’s a chance for the traders to thank the community for their support throughout the year, therefore many of the attractions are free of charge. Expect great food stalls, award-winning eateries, a fabulous stage with music all afternoon, Father Christmas visits (it is advised to book in advance), the chance to feed the reindeer, watch and take part in some stilt walking, a fairground ride, sideshows and much more. You can also browse the unique selection of independent shops that we have in town.’

She adds: ‘For the adults there will be mulled wine, prosecco and food stalls available, as well as some craft stalls where you can grab a present or two for your loved ones. Late night shopping won’t be happening this year, but shops will stay open until 7.30pm for this special event.’

The High Street in Great Dunmow is one of the few remaining High Streets where the majority of shops are independents. There is a diverse assortment, from fashion and beauty to furniture and homewares, as well as your staples such as a chemist, stationers and butchers, which provides the perfect opportunity to get your Christmas necessities.


Visit Great Dunmow

Great Dunmow High Street


Make Braintree a shopping day experience to remember by taking a drive in the country through idyllic villages and witness beautiful on your way to this colourful, bustling market town. From a designer shopping village to the region’s ancient history, it really provides plenty of opportunities for shoppers to buy special gifts for everyone this Christmas.

Don’t miss The George Yard Shopping Centre, which offers a fantastic mix of high street names and independent boutiques, including fashion and everyday products, and is kicking the festive season off early by hosting its Christmas Light Switch On on November 18.

George Yard Braintree

Braintree Town Centre will also be having its own Christmas Light Switch On event on December 2 at 5pm and visitors are advised to expect lots of celebrations, including late night shopping opportunities, entertainment and special offers.

Cllr Tom Cunningham, cabinet member for economic development at Braintree District Council, said: ‘Christmas is a great time of year to celebrate and enjoy everything that Braintree has to offer. We are working with retailers and businesses to organise an exciting Christmas calendar which will showcase our rich mix of shopping opportunities including from our independent businesses, as well as bringing some festive fun to the town for residents and visitors.’


Braintree District Council

Toy soldiers in the Quadrant window IMG_3552


This year Colchester is making Christmas even more magical than ever before with spectacular events, festive treats and its wealth of shopping opportunities for locals and visitors. Commencing on November 26, Colchester Presents’ Grand Light Switch On will be signalling the start of Christmas in the town.

A day of festive fun not to be missed is planned, with Father Christmas riding into town to perform the Big Light Switch On, as Colchester revels in a carnival atmosphere of bands, choirs and street performers. Watch Santa ride into town at 4pm as he heads over to Fenwick for a new magical festive showcase full of surprises, staged just outside the store.

Colchester High Street

As well as the centrepiece decorations of illuminated stars and baubles spanning the High Street, Head Street and Crouch Street, lights will be simultaneously turned on in Culver Square, creating a magical effect in the town’s main shopping areas to signal the start of Christmas.

Mayor of Colchester, Cllr Gerard Oxford, explains why Colchester is a fantastic destination to visit this Christmas. ‘Colchester offers a wide range of first class historic, retail and entertainment venues for visitors to enjoy,’ he says. ‘It makes any last-minute dash to buy presents a whole lot easier with the opportunity for late night shopping in the town centre.

On the four Wednesdays before Christmas, many shops will stay open until 9pm and I’m pleased to say they’ll be some great parking offers in all the council’s town centre car parks, both surface and multi-storey, on each of the late night shopping Wednesdays before Christmas. But it is not just about the shopping. People of all ages will be able to get into the festive spirit in the wide range of pubs, cafes and restaurants our town centre and borough has to offer.’


Colchester Tourism Information


As our county’s only city, Chelmsford has so much to offer this Christmas season as it hosts a variety of ‘go to’ shopping destinations in the area. With so many events lined up for visitors and locals this year, and three shopping centres: Bond Street, The Meadows and High Chelmer, Chelmsford provides an ideal opportunity to source the perfect gift this Christmas.

Chelmsford’s festive season starts with its annual Christmas Light Switch On event on November 26, which always proves to be a success year after year – stay tuned as there are lots of announcements to made very soon. The city is holding some of the best Christmas entertainment around this year and all visitors and residents are invited to join them in celebrating this wonderful occasion.

If you fancy taking a break from the shopping, there are fantastic opportunities to have fun with all the family, including Bond Street Christmas Grotto from December 1 and an ice rink opening in The Bowl from December 12 to January 7.

There is also going to be an extra street market in the High Street trading every day from December 4 until Christmas. This will offer a huge range of items, gifts and other treats for shoppers. Plus enjoy a special concert arranged by Farleigh Hospice when hundreds of people are expected to attend on December 8 in the High Street.

Chelmsford Christmas Lights [DSC_4454]

Cllr Duncan Lumley, Mayor of Chelmsford, said: ‘Christmas is such a special time of year and is even more so in our city. We have a number of exciting events lined up for visitors and residents. Our city has such a wonderful shopping centre which is forever improving and expanding – especially with the new Bond Street which will be a very welcome addition again this Christmas. We always manage to attract huge numbers of visitors who want to see what we have on offer as well as grab a festive bargain and present. The High Street lends itself wonderfully to street entertainment, festive fun and other events around Christmas time.’

Find out more

Chelmsford Tourist Information

Chelmsford High Street


Saffron Walden is a picturesque medieval town, boasting a rich heritage of historic buildings which reflect its wealth as a rural market stop. It offers an array of activities for visitors and local residents to do and see over the festive period.

To begin the Christmas celebrations, the town will be hosting its annual Christmas Light Switch On event on December 1, with the mayor and Father Christmas making a special appearance during the ceremony at 6pm. The day will see an annual evening of fun, with shops remaining open until 8.30pm, the all-day-late-night market in King Street/Market Place from 9am to 8.30pm, charity stalls lining the central streets, entertainers, Father Christmas in his grotto and a Christmas Gift Fair in the Saffron Town Hall, all in aid of the mayor’s charities.

Saffron Walden Xmas Lights

Nevertheless, if you fancy a break from all those Christmas present pressures, head to Audley End House and Gardens with family and friends for something special. From December 15 to 23, the gardens of the decadent Jacobean mansion will be bathed in dramatic illuminations, with strings of lanterns laced through the boughs of trees and fairy lights twinkling behind leaves to lead visitors along an enchanting trail into a magical wonderland. And the experience doesn’t end when the trail does, with a traditional fairground, mince pies, mulled wine and Christmas shopping at a heritage-inspired shop all to enjoy.

Mark Starte, duty manager at the Saffron Walden Tourist Information Centre, believes this is the place to be this Christmas. ‘Saffron Walden has a unique charm, reflected in its varied architecture and many listed buildings. It also has fantastic community spirit with many groups working together to create exciting and dynamic events.

A very special event (and a first for Saffron Walden) is Wintasia, which takes place from December 3 and continues throughout the month. Located on the Common, Wintasia will feature a synthetic ice-rink as well as a series of inter-connected TIPIs. There will be food, drink and entertainment on offer and we are all looking forward to this exciting new venture enormously.’

Find out more

Saffron Walden Tourist Information Centre

Saffron Walden Xmas Lights


Discover the charming and beautiful town of Maldon this Christmas, which is packed with independent shops and timeless history, making it more than just a shopping experience. November 30 is when the magic happens for the district. Maldon will be holding a Vintage Christmas event, starting at 6pm, with late night shopping, a street market, choirs, music, hospitality hosted by a variety of local shops and competitions.

Local radio station, Saint FM, will be putting a range of entertainment on from the big stage, located near All Saints’ Church on the High Street, and Santa and his reindeer will be making an appearance. This is followed at 7pm by the chance to watch the Town Mayor of Maldon turn the Christmas lights on.


With more than 100 shops and businesses in the High Street, its mix of independent boutiques, high street brands and specialist shops makes it easy to get that ideal gift you have been looking for. So make a day of it and take time to explore the hidden gems that Maldon has to offer.

Find out more

Maldon Tourist Information Centre

Check out our other Christmas content:

Why Essex is the best place for Christmas

Christmas locations to visit

Essex Christmas Markets

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