10 Things to do during Christmas in Birmingham as an International Student

AarushiInternational Students

Navigating assessment deadlines, coursework, and job applications can consume a significant portion of your daily routine as an international student. Yet, amidst the hustle, it’s crucial not to overlook the opportunity to immerse yourself in the new culture and festivities of your host country.

As some of you prepare to head back home for the holidays, others may find themselves spending Christmas at Aston. Rest assured, many of our students, especially those from different parts of the world, choose to stay on campus during this festive season. While the atmosphere may be a bit quieter than usual, there’s no shortage of activities both on campus and in Birmingham.

In Birmingham, indulging in the Christmas festivities can be a delightful experience, providing a refreshing respite from the demands of academics and job hunting. Here are seven recommendations to help you fully embrace the holiday season:

1. Explore the Christmas Markets: Take a pause from your academic responsibilities to explore and understand the unique Christmas traditions in Birmingham. Birmingham is known for its fantastic Christmas markets. Head to Victoria Square and New Street, where you can explore traditional German-style stalls offering festive treats, crafts, and gifts. It’s a great way to soak up the holiday atmosphere and find unique presents for friends and family.

2. Attend the Aston Winter Village: Starting from December 11th to 15th, 2023, get ready to brace yourself for an extraordinary holiday experience featuring on-campus festivities that showcase our diversity, electrifying performances, a spellbinding lighting ceremony, and an abundance of delightful surprises. It’s not just a market; it’s a sensational celebration that promises to captivate and enchant all who attend.

3. Winter Wonderland Ice Skating: Take advantage of the temporary ice rinks that have popped up during this Christmas season. Centenary Square is a common location for this winter wonderland. Ice skating is a fun and festive activity that you can enjoy with friends.

4. Watch Christmas Theatre in Birmingham: Experience the magic of the season with timeless favourites such as the panto at Birmingham Hippodrome, traditional holiday tales at The Rep, and classic adventures at The Alexandra. A visit to the theatre during Christmas adds a special touch to your festive celebrations! Find out more here

5. Festive Shopping: You truly haven’t experienced the essence of a British winter until Christmas arrives! However, this also marks the onset of the coldest period of the year, with a significant drop in temperatures. It becomes crucial to dress appropriately and keep warm when venturing outdoors. Charity shops offer these items at affordable prices, and there are numerous budget-friendly stores in Selly Oak and throughout Birmingham. For an extra festive treat, always inquire about potential student discounts to save some additional money!

6. Christmas Lights Tour: Explore the city centre by taking a leisurely walk to appreciate the enchanting Christmas lights and decorations. Numerous areas, such as the Bullring and the primary streets, are adorned with festive displays. Whether opting for a guided Christmas lights tour or arranging a relaxed stroll with friends, revel in the illuminated streets. Don’t miss the captivating Birmingham Botanical Gardens Winter Light Trail 2023 for an extra dose of holiday magic. Discover more details about it here.

7. Explore Birmingham with the Snow Dogs Trail: The annual trail is live and this year you can follow the snow dogs across the city. When you solve the 10 hidden letters, there’s a chance to win a £100 dining voucher. There are some adorable insta-worthy snow dogs in some of the prime locations like Pigeon Park, Piccadilly Arcade and more. Find out more here

8. Christmas Carols: Immersing oneself in the joyous melodies of Christmas carols is a cherished tradition, especially for international students in Birmingham. The resonant tunes not only create a festive ambience but also foster a sense of togetherness among people from diverse backgrounds. Discovering and participating in Christmas carol services, such as those hosted at Birmingham Cathedral adds a touch of magic to the holiday experience. These events provide a unique opportunity to connect with local customs, share in the seasonal spirit, and create lasting memories.

9. Try Minced Pies: As an international student, tasting a minced pie offers a glimpse into British holiday traditions and provides an opportunity to savour a unique seasonal treat. You can find minced pies in various bakeries, cafes, or even supermarkets around Birmingham during the Christmas season. Be sure to enjoy them with a sprinkle of powdered sugar or a dollop of whipped cream for the full experience.

Alternatively, if you’re feeling adventurous, consider learning how to make minced pies yourself. It can be a fun and rewarding activity, allowing you to share the joy of homemade festive treats with friends or fellow students. There are plenty of online recipes and tutorials available to guide you through the process, and you can personalise the ingredients to suit your taste preferences. Try some recipes here.

10. Volunteer: Look for volunteering opportunities during the holiday season. Many organisations organise events to help those in need, and volunteering can be a fulfilling way to spend your time. Check these opportunities on Aston University’s webpage

Regardless of whether you observe Christmas traditions, this is an opportune moment to share joy, engage in acts of kindness, and create lasting memories. Consider it a chance to explore new experiences, embrace the festive spirit, participate in local traditions, and share the joy of the season with fellow students and friends.