Five things to do before Christmas

From festive fêtes selling an array of eclectic and handmade gifts, to delving into Christmases past at the Geffrye Museum; here's our guide to the top five things to do in London this month

1. Christmas Past

Open now until January 5 at the Geffrye Museum, Kingsland Road, E2 (geffrye
Rituals — such as sending cards, kissing under the mistletoe, and hanging up stockings — are as much a part of Christmas as too much food and decorations. Find out why at a show of Christmas Past in one of London’s most charming museums, with an inspirational array of decorated rooms covering 400 years.

There will be special talks on December 15, while at an open evening tomorrow you can join in the Victorian-style festivities and enjoy a musical performance of The Pickwick Papers, plus decorating workshops. Seasonal suppers are being offered in the restaurant.

2. Christmas Wednesdays

December 5, 12 and 19, from 5pm to 9pm, Columbia Road Flower Market, E2 (
For the 17th year running, the quirky and specialist independent shopkeepers of Columbia Road — around 50 in all — are opening late in the run-up to Christmas, with a great mix of gifts, live music, top-notch food and seasonal cheer.

Pop-up shops include Mini Moderns with award-winning graphics on cushions, wallpapers, tea towels and more (pictured). Small art galleries sit next to cupcake shops, vintage clothes stores, English and Italian delis, garden and antiques merchants, with great pubs, cafés and restaurants. On Sundays, it’s wall-to-wall flowers and foliage as usual, for Christmas.

Ndidi Ekubia's silverware will be available at The New Craftsman until December 15

3. The New Craftsman

Until December 15, at 5 Carlos Place, W1 (
Britain's finest craftworkers fill this temporary space. Furnishings and homewares include limited-edition pieces, one-off designs, and bespoke items that can be made to order. Makers demonstrate their skills in a special space on the ground floor of this elegant four-storey townhouse.

See the silverware of Ndidi Ekubia (left) and hear talks by weaver Ptolemy Mann and stitcher Rosalind Wyatt, or visit the workshops of glassblower Michael Ruh and lino printer Cameron Short. Furniture maker Gareth Neal will be using his modern design to create a traditional-style Orkney chair on site.

Chimpanzee pin cushions
Chimp Pin Cushions by Textile designer Naori Priestly, £18 each, at the RCA Christmas Fête from December 5-9

4. The RCA Christmas Fête

From December 6-9 at the Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, W8 (
The RCA is holding its first ever Christmas fête in a marquee in neighbouring Jay Mews. Students and graduates will be offering an eclectic —and often witty — array of gifts at prices that start at only £2, accompanied by hot chocolate and mulled wine.

Lost for ideas? How about these chimpanzee pin cushions (right)? Or a flat-pack wooden birdhouse, or a folding cardboard desk light?

While you are there, don’t miss the College’s 175th anniversary exhibition of past college achievers (there are many) at The Perfect Place to Grow, which has a late night on Friday until 8pm.

Jamie Palmer's intricate designs are on plates
Jamie Palmer's intricate designs are on plates and lampshades at Pen and Gravy/Modernish

5. The Shop Revolution by SEE3

Now until Christmas, in Sydenham and Forest Hill (
The Shop Revolution’s pop-up shops are revitalising south London high streets. Just opened is The Butchery, 49 London Road, SE23 ( with meats from small farms.

Pen and Gravy/Modernish at 161 Kirkdale, SE26 ( sells mid-century vintage design and local artist Jamie Palmer’s intricate one-off designs for lampshades and plates (right). And Conquer Gear, Unit 4, Station Approach, SE26, an artists’ collective, has activities on Fridays until 9pm. A festive fair is at Forest Hill Pools Piazza on December, 15, and there’s a Food Fair at Station Approach, Sydenham on December 16.

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