Get back to the simple joys of Christmas at Brunel's SS Great Britain this December, and step into a Dickensian scene which captures the human spirit of the holidays.

For three weekends the site will be transformed into a winter setting from the past, transporting visitors into the heart of a Victorian Christmas.

Brunel’s historic ship first set sail in 1843, the same year A Christmas Carol was published, and so festivities on board would have looked much like the sights described in Dickens’ classic novel.

Stroll across the snowy dockyard, where you’ll meet 19th century characters and explore the ship brought to life with seasonal sights, sounds and smells. The SS Great Britain is also welcoming Old Father Christmas on board, who will be festively adorned in his traditional green robes!

Green Father Christmas with little boy at SS Great Britain

Image credit - Adam Gasson

Discover a Victorian Father Christmas

The SS Great Britain is offering a unique experience, to travel back in time and encounter a Victorian Father Christmas.

The modern Santa Claus we see nowadays is a vastly different character from the old Father Christmas of the 1800s, who was yet to be Americanised into the red chimney dweller who delivers gifts.

Father Christmas’ origins in England date back to ancient pre-Christian festive folklore, where an unnamed pagan figure, robed in a green hooded cloak and wearing a wreath of holly, would come to lift people’s spirits during the bleakest time of year.

Though he gained some years, and his robes gained some fur, the Victorian Father Christmas closely aligned with his origins. He was a merry old man who was the life and soul of the festive parties, bringing joy and laughter to everyone he meets.

This year, Old Father Christmas is back and ready to board the SS Great Britain. He will be on deck to entertain visitors with tales of Christmas past.

Green Father Christmas with Mr Brunel and other Victorian characters at SS Great Britain

Image credit - Adam Gasson

Discover Victorian traditions

The Victorians established the heart and soul of Christmas, as a celebration of unity, family and tradition.

Dickens’ A Christmas Carol brought focus to community during the festive period. He described the holidays as:

"A good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of other people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys."

The SS Great Britain brought together people from all levels of society to live among one another other for months at a time. During her voyages passengers from all over would celebrate Christmas together at sea.

An immersive soundscape will ring out throughout the ship, creating the atmosphere of a bustling voyage at Christmas time and featuring the voices of passengers from different countries.

Traditional handmade Victorian decorations will also deck the halls and cabins, depicting how the different classes would have been decorated at the time. Discover the festive smells wafting throughout the ship, as if an authentic Christmas banquet has just been served.

Christmas decorations in the SS Great Britain's First Class Dining Saloon

Step inside a Dickensian Christmas scene

Though it’s been years since Bristol saw a white Christmas, the SS Great Britain is offering wintery scenes whatever the weather.

During their Christmas weekends, the dockyard will be transformed into a snowy picturesque setting. It will also be dressed in festive greenery, with holly, ivy and mistletoe adorning the authentic Victorian backdrop.

If this isn’t enough to make you feel like you have stumbled onto the set of A Christmas Carol, you will also get to meet a cast of 19th century characters! Interact with members of the Ragged Victorians living history group, Mr Brunel and, of course, Old Father Christmas, who will be bringing an 1800s Christmas to life.

Three people in Victorian costume at SS Great Britain

Take an unforgettable trip to the SS Great Britain this Christmas. On a Scroogelike journey, you will discover incredible stories of the past, a multisensory experience in the present, and lifelong memories for the future.

Don’t miss out on an authentic Victorian Christmas - book your spot today. The festive celebrations will take place across three weekends: 4-5, 11-12, 18-19 December.

This content was kindly sponsored by Brunel's SS Great Britain. 

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Join Brunel's SS Great Britain this December to celebrate a very festive Victorian Christmas, with guests from the Ragged Victorians living history group. There'll also be a visit from a special Father Christmas to the site, for the very first time!