Published: Thursday, 3rd Dec 2020

It may not be Christmas as normal this year but there’s lots of things to help illuminate the dark nights and add some sparkle across Bolton this December.

The team behind the council’s usual Winter Festival have teamed up with partners and businesses across Bolton to create some fantastic, family friendly activities to keep everyone entertained. 

Winter Festival logo


For the first time ever there was One Big Bolton Switch On event with all the lights across the borough being switched on at 7pm on Thursday 3rd December.  Residents were encourage to get involved by creating their own switch on event at home too!

If you’re in Bolton town centre look out for the four fantastic, festive Christmas trees - dressed to dazzle and the Town Hall and Victoria Square all lit up to add a splash of colour.  Keep your eyes peeled for the giant inflatable Santa in his new home in Bolton Market as well as the traditional nativity scene, located in Bolton Library and Museum.

The Winter Festival website is the place to go to find out what’s happening in Bolton and to join in with some great activities, competitions and prizes and share fun ideas to keep the family entertained all at

So whilst Father Christmas isn’t able to meet younger residents in person he’s put some time aside for a virtual zoom chat. Each weekend starting Saturday 12 December before Christmas children can join him on a zoom call to find out how he’s getting ready for this year’s deliveries and answer any questions they have too! 

As well as Santa, the team from the Library and Museum Service are once again helping to entertain youngsters with six specially produced, festive stories  - so join our two Elves (Shasha and Rob) every Saturday and Sunday in the lead up to Christmas, they’re also reading a story live on Christmas Eve to help get youngsters ready for the big day.

Bolton’s ‘Gigin for it’ so once again the team created a unique music programme in the run up to Christmas with some of Bolton’s best known and most talented musicians streaming pre-recorded sets each weekend. KurtandCam starts the show on Saturday 5th December with Elvis tribute Tommy Holland signing off the virtual gig on Sunday 20th December. Also in the line up are; acoustic singer/songwriter Jess Kemp who is a keen favourite of BBC Radio 2; Martin Taylor a local pianist and singer; Bolton’s Gaz Drury from Our Fold; and many more class acts to keep your foot tapping.

To help everyone get in the mood Bolton’s residents are urged to join a Jingle Bells singalong, sharing their clips with the team to create one Big Bolton Singalong film, ready to released in the run up to Christmas Day.  Whilst traditional carol concerts are not able to take place in the usual way, This is Bolton will be brining Carol singing to the virtual world in collaboration with partners.

Bolton’s Albert Halls panto goes live online so families can enjoy the festive fairytale Sleeping Beauty from the comfort of their own homes. Shows stream from December 14 to January 3, 2021 and all the family can watch it together for just £15.49 with virtual tickets at

It’s a great time to step outside and get some exercise so pull on your warm outdoor clothes and take the family on a treasure hunt as part of Bolton’s 8 town’s Christmas trail. While passing the festive lights and lanterns you can find the clues as each town centre has 12 shops displaying a Winter Festival clue - find the letters and work out the winning phrase for a chance to win some great prizes including a brand new iPad all just intime for Christmas. Last date for entries is 20th December, email  with ‘8 Towns Trail’ in the subject title and include your contact details and the winning phrase.

The Virtual Marketplace is here to help promote the best of Bolton’s local businesses online. This is Bolton is backing all our businesses that have had such a tough year and urging people to shop local across all eight of our towns across the borough and look after the whole Bolton family. See what great shops we have and any special offers they have to share.

Its time to impress your family and friends this Christmas with a special mince pie treat courtesy of the Mighty Mince Pie Charity Auction. Twenty five of the most talented regional chefs have each created a dozen special signature mince pies for an online charity auction. Simply go to and bid for your favourite mince pie recipe or for your favourite chef and help share the love and festive fun this December as well as helping to raise some valuable funds for the Mayor’s chosen charities. The auction starts on Saturday 12th December and closes on Monday 21st December.

You can also win a Free Christmas gift each day in our virtual 12 days of Christmas draw. With 12 prizes to be won all you need to do is go to the Winter Festival Facebook page and like and share the image posted that day. Everyone liking and sharing will be entered to a free prize draw for that day’s gift. The prizes and winners will be posted each day from Saturday 12th to Thursday 24th December.

A Best lantern competition is being run by Bolton’s cultural partnership to add light and colour to homes across the borough, creating a virtual lantern parade. There’s a ‘how to’ make your own lantern guide available on the Festival website from this weekend and we’re asking people to make and display their own lanterns in their front windows and post a picture of them on the Winter Festival Facebook page tagged as #virtuallantern and the most liked images will be entered into a competition to win some great prizes. 

The spirit of goodwill has never been stronger and the borough is full of local heroes and they’ve been showing their true rainbow colours this year. To celebrate this Bolton’s Heroes Awards’ have been created in association with Bolton FM to recognise the great humanitarian and voluntary activity that has taken place and are asking for people to nominate someone they feel worthy of an award. The three categories are Team Bolton Hero, Junior Hero and Community Hero. The successful nominees will be named in the new year.

Without the support of our amazing partners The Virtual Winter Festival would not have been possible and we give huge thanks especially to Warburton’s, Bolton School, Impression Ltd, Lisa Forshaw PR, Stepplaces, Granite Turner, Northstone, Peel & L&P Ltd and Bolton FM.

Leader of Bolton Council, Cllr David Greenhalgh said: “We’ve been through some dark days this year and I’m proud of how Bolton’s pulled together to help each other stay safe.

“Our towns are full of local heroes who have come together to make a real difference to people’s lives and I thank them for their efforts in keeping us all safe.”

“With the support of our partners across the borough we are helping light up our towns and raise our spirits as part of the Virtual Winter Festival and I wish everyone the best of health and happiness for the festive season.”

“Please stay safe and here’s to a brighter and happier 2021.”

Find out all the details on Bolton Winter Festival website