How to create a Santa’s Grotto in your garden – with lighting, decorations and fun games

Social distancing might make the usual trip to see Santa impossible, so why not DIY a hideaway for Father Christmas?
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  • With lockdown likely affecting how many of us can celebrate the festivities this year, homeowners may have to think outside of the box to when it comes to spending time with friends and family. Our fingers are crossed that we’ll soon be able to socialise again, at least in the garden. And despite the weather, this presents us with the chance to celebrate Christmas a little differently this year.

    We’ve teamed up with our friends at The Farthing to conjure up lots of ideas for creating your very own Christmas Grotto in the garden. With a bit of creative thinking, some savvy buys and some easy DIY, you can come up with a truly magical setting on a budget.

    Our ideas for backyard Santa’s Grottos show that Christmas needn’t be cancelled just yet!

    How to create a Santa’s Grotto in your back garden

    1. Find your grotto location

    How-to-create-a-Santa's-Grotto-Mark-Scott

    Image credit: Mark Scott

    If you are lucky, you might have a relatively empty shed or summerhouse that you can dress up for Santa. Failing that, a garden canopy or pergola will protect your guests against the rain, and is easily spruced up with lighting and Christmas decoration. With an open pergola, using plastic sheeting as walls can also protect against the wind.

    If you don’t own an existing garden canopy or pergola, however, a gazebo will work also. However, be sure to secure this effectively in case of strong winds.

    2. Light it right

    How-to-create-a-Santa's-Grotto-Dan-Duchars

    Image credit: Dan Duchars

    There is plenty of lighting to choose from for your Christmas Grotto. You don’t even necessarily need to opt for Christmas lighting. As the name suggests, festoon lighting appears festive, however, it can be used year-round, whether it is for special occasions in a garden or a permanent fixture. These look great draped across fencing and trees or even hanging from a garden canopy.

    Lanterns are also a simple and effective way to add character and warmth to a Christmas garden. You can upcycle these yourself using old glass jars and bottles. Try using decorated green bottles – squint and they’ll resemble mini, glowing Christmas trees.

    Another way to create outdoor Christmas lighting is by attaching two empty hanging baskets together to form a ball shape. You can make these your own with spray paint, tinsel and fairy lights, to create large hanging Christmas baubles across your grotto.

     

    3. Transform your trees

    Image credit: Homebase

    Christmas isn’t complete without a tree. The evergreen conifer is the classic Christmas tree, but any tree outside can be turned into a Christmas tree. Leafless or not, adding fairy lights and decorations can make even the barest tree seem festive. Oversized baubles designed for outdoor trees are also a nice addition. If you’re happy to spray paint your tree white, this can also add to the ambience of a winter wonderland.

    If you don’t have a tree you can decorate, creating your own using branches and old pallets is a fun activity to do with children, and also adds a rustic addition to a Christmas garden.

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    String these 14m of weatherproof lights through your outdoor trees for a magical grotto.

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    4. Decorate your grotto

    How-to-create-a-Santa's-Grotto-Dominic-Blackmore

    Image credit: Dominic Blackmore

    Decorating your Christmas garden allows you to be expressive and creating. Upcycling is a fantastic way to create a unique, sentimental setting, perfect for celebrating Christmas. Creating rustic decorations, such as reindeers from logs and branches gives a homely feel. This is also a great activity to do with your kids.

    Use a simple stool or log stumps as authentic seats for Santa, his elves and visitors, but don’t forget to add cushions for comfort.

    5. Stay warm

    How-to-create-a-Santa's-Grotto-tim-Young

    Image credit: Tim Young

    Don’t let the weather put you off creating your Santa’s Grotto. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without crisp, dark nights. However, it could be worth investing in a little outdoor heating.

    Not only can braziers and fire pits keep your guests and yourself warm, but they are also very Christmassy. Despite being mainly used in the summertime, fire pits can recreate a cosy Christmas fireplace outdoors. Outdoor heaters are also effective at providing warmth, however, don’t have the same visual and rustic effect as an open flame.

    Of course, be sure to keep the fire pit at least 10 feet away from your home, and away from flammable materials. Make sure children and pets are protected with a fire guard.

    6. Create a feast for your grotto guests

    How-to-create-a-Santa's-Grotto-Emma-Lee

    Image credit: Emma Lee

    As Christmas is a time for celebration, hosts don’t want to spend the entire evening cooking and serving. Also due to the cold weather, smaller entrees and Christmas treats are more suitable for eating in a Christmas garden grotto, rather than a Christmas dinner.

    Serving a buffet, with hors d’oeuvre and canapes give you and your guests flexibility, and enable you to minimise contact and respect social distancing. Christmas appetizers can be anything from pigs in blankets, to hummus and flatbread. Whether you’re an experienced cook or not, plenty of retailers stock platters of Christmas snacks, giving the host one less thing to worry about.

    Mulled wine is also the perfect drink for your Christmas grotto. It can be made easily, with red wine, brown sugar, star anise, orange and lemon. It also keeps your gets warm and toasty and your guests can help themselves from the mixture, allowing you to keep your distance. Washing mince pies down with mulled wine is also recommended.

    Be sure to have plenty of soft drinks available for children and those that don’t want anything stronger.

    7. Try some fun activities

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    Make the most of your garden and create a Christmas-themed Easter hunt. Hiding mini presents and treats throughout your garden and proving clues for kids will keep them entertained. Having Santa make an appearance will also go down well if any guests are willing to dress up.

    If the adults want to get in on the fun, charades is also a classic Christmas game. Christmas carols are a must for any Christmas gathering, with karaoke adding extra entertianment. Secret Santa is also a great way to provide suspense and fun to swapping presents, without having to buy gifts for everyone.

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