The season is upon us and the day itself rapidly approaching, yet I’ve been struggling to get into the festive spirit for some reason this year – despite having a tiny tot who I’m sure will be thrilled by the concept of Santa and MORE TOYS, my former retail employee soul is still rallying against the music and not getting into the spirit of things. This however, was to be combatted by immersing myself into a festival of all things Christmas – Waterford’s Winterval – during a much needed break away from normal life and home to see family.
This wasn’t my first time experiencing Winterval, I had checked it out two years ago while pregnant on a trip home in December and found it to be an absolutely brilliant idea in the city which I regarded as a second home for so many years, bringing happiness and festive spirit to a city ravaged by the depression of recession and job cuts – for a little while, not only were the people of Waterford and further afield encouraged to come to Ireland’s oldest city to do their Christmas shopping and enjoy the entertainment and market scene, but encouraged to let themselves get into the festive mood properly and forget the rest of life’s worries.
Launched in 2012 as Ireland’s Winter Festival, it combines music, visual magic, and exhibits for every member of the family, regardless of their interests – as well as the big man himself, Santa, and a couple of his helpers along the way. While I didn’t get to see everything on offer this weekend (the weather was a bit of a hindrance, thank you Storm Desmond), I was very impressed by what I did see and have heard great things about bits I missed out on.
One of the big parts of our trip with Eliott into the festival was the Toy Museum. I’d seen this last time, but of course with new additions from their side and mine, it was an all new experience! Try telling a 20 month old that he can’t just flip down the giant Guess Who pieces while other kids are playing… or that giant Jenga isn’t for making jenga-angels out of… you see where this is going. From really creepy dolls, to a collection of retro boardgames, to all things Star Wars and a HUGE Transformer, it really did cater to all tastes, as well as adding to the fun with giant family games like 4 in a Row and Jenga to be played by all. Though keeping an eye on the very enthusiastic toddler made it a little less of a breeze to check out, it definitely added to the experience!
Winterval is home to a beautiful Christmas market, wooden stalls which vary from food and drink to gift ideas, to Christmas trinkets like stockings and personalised decorations. There are three main sections of the markets; Arundel Square, Bishops’s Palace and Cathedral Square, all of which were happily busy when we were wandering around on Sunday afternoon.
In between these markets, different exhibits take place. Behind the Bishop’s Palace in Palace Square stands the “Singing Christmas Tree” which I unfortunately didn’t get to see in action, but still even empty looks quite pretty! I did however get to check out the Waterford Comhaltas performing some wonderful Irish trad music.
The Winterval Light Show is a highlight each year – amazingly well put together and projected onto Cathedral Square, this year it incorporates the man in red himself, some Christmas magic from Keith Barry and wishes on stars and much more – definitely not to be missed. I even learned this weekend that my dad may be the only person on the planet to have not heard the song “Let it Go” before during the performance… who knew?
There were many bits of the festival which I’d love to have seen – including a visit with the man in red himself, but it was not to be this weekend – however you can find out more information about all the goings on on the Waterford Winterval website here. Their promo video below also gives a pretty good look into what you’re missing!
Have you gotten to check out this year’s Winterval in Waterford? Let me know what your favourite part was in the comments!
In 2016, we did manage to get to try out the Winterval Santa experience – here’s how we got on.
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