12 Dates of Christmas

Heather Bruton details the top dozen date ideas for the holiday period

Winter can make us a little bit lazy when it comes to creative date ideas. In the summer, the perfect date can simply mean sitting outside in the sun with a cold drink or picnic, no planning involved. Whereas in winter, when it’s freezing outside and starts getting dark as early as 4pm, sometimes it feels easier to just stay in and not bother. 

That being said, the excitement of Christmas, the feeling of being wrapped up in a cozy jumper with your favourite person by your side, and the sparkle of Christmas lights wherever you look, makes this period also one of the most romantic. With a little bit of extra thought and imagination, a wintery date could be one of the most memorable. Here at Trinity News, we have come up with 12 festive date ideas for the countdown to Christmas.

#1. Light festivals

On the first day of Christmas, we give to you one better than a partridge in a pear tree: Christmas light festivals. Although you can find wonderful light displays all over Ireland this Christmas, two stand out immersive light experiences just on our doorstep are Wild Lights at Dublin Zoo and Wonderlights at Malahide Castle. What is it about colorful lights in the cold dark of winter that just screams festivity and romance? These magical night walk experiences are not to be missed, although you better hurry if you want to go tickets are selling fast for these light shows. 

#2. Christmas-themed cooking

The relationship between cooking and romance is well-known – you only need to see the spaghetti scene from Lady and the Tramp to know this. There is something special about cooking together, even if you’re terrible at it. It isn’t really about the quality of the cooking that matters, but rather, like Christmas gift giving, it is the thought that counts. As a vegetarian, my recommendations for Christmas-themed meals include a nut roast, mushroom wellington, roast potatoes, and stuffing, to name just a few, but really this is your chance to get creative in the kitchen. Cooking with another person requires communication and collaboration, thus it can be a great opportunity to develop a closer bond with someone and create lasting memories. 

“Lemon on South William Street and Voice Crêperie in Rathmines are great spots for a crêpe date.”

#3. Crêpes 

For whatever reason, crêpes and Christmas are intimately intertwined in my mind. Lemon on South William Street and Voice Crêperie in Rathmines are great spots for a crêpe date. Or if you want takeaway, the quirky Frame coffee shop on Montague Street is a hidden gem – selling coffee, crêpes and photo frames out of a little wooden window. But if you’re not feeling like going outside, crêpes are also another easy option for a date of cooking at home.

#4. Christmas film screenings

Instead of the usual Christmas movie binge-watching, why not go to the cinema to see your favourite festive films? Between 26 November and 2 January, the Light House cinema in Smithfield is screening several Christmas movies, such as National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Love Actually, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Scrooged, to name just a few. The Stella in Rathmines and Ranelagh also has a festive line-up, including old favourites such as Home Alone, Gremlins and Elf. Enjoy these Christmas classics on the big screen with some snacks, your date, and maybe even a glass of wine (or two!)

#5. Board games

It wouldn’t be Christmas if you didn’t whip out the board games at some point. This is an easy and fun date night at home. Although, be careful if you are known to be overly competitive. Why not order a takeaway, crack open a bottle of wine and play some Scrabble, Jenga, or Cluedo this Christmas? If playing board games at home isn’t an option for you, or you just fancy getting out of the house, why not organise a date at a bar like The Square Ball that has heaps of board games to choose from. Or you can book a dinner for two at Token where you can play retro arcade games, if that’s more your thing. 

#6. Mulled wine

Whether you make it yourself or buy it in Bestseller on Dawson Street, there is nothing like mulled wine on a cold, wintery night. All you need to make this delicious spiced drink is a bottle of red wine, some orange slices, spices, and a little honey. Honestly, mulled wine is Christmas in a glass and the perfect way to spend a cosy, tipsy evening with someone you care about.

“This is definitely for the more adventurous couple, but surely developing borderline hypothermia together is romantic, right?”

#7. Christmas sea swim

Join those seven swans a-swimming and immerse yourselves in the freezing Irish sea this Christmas. This is definitely for the more adventurous couple, but surely developing borderline hypothermia together is romantic, right? Bring lots of warm layers for this date and definitely a hot flask full of tea or coffee for after. You will need it, trust me.

#8. Hot chocolate

Nothing beats wandering the streets of Dublin with a cozy hot chocolate in hand. One festive and easy date idea is to try out some of the capital’s best hot chocolate spots. My favourites include Three Twenty Ice Cream Lab, Butler’s, Ladurée, and Hotel Chocolat, but there are certainly so many other options to explore around Dublin. This date is ideal for the busy study period in the lead up to Christmas as it is a quick way to spend some quality time together at the end of a long day. 

#9. Dancing

To keep somewhat with the theme of this article, on the ninth day of Christmas there must be nine ladies dancing – so throw on Mariah Carey, keep the drinks flowing, and have a bop. It wouldn’t be Christmas if you didn’t listen to a Christmas playlist 24/7 now would it? Whether you decide to go out in town for drinks and a dance (remember, Covid-19 only comes out after midnight!), or you put on a Spotify playlist at home, realising your date is a terrible dancer is a great way to grow closer, or perhaps realise they are not the one…

#10. Ice skating

Hit up the ice skating rink in Blanchardstown for some Christmas leaping. Now, ice skating may seem like the top tier of romantic winter dates. We all have that image in our mind of two people holding hands, gliding across the ice. In reality, this is unlikely to be your experience. Most likely you will spend the better part of this date falling and laughing at each other, but that’s a bonding experience too. Generally, the ice rink is also always incredibly crowded so be careful. Of course, some sort of hot drink after an ice skating date is an absolute must so maybe combine this date with date #6 or #8.

#11. Live music

There are some beautiful choirs performing at St Patrick’s Cathedral as well as Christchurch Cathedral if you enjoy Christmas carols this time of year. Or if carols aren’t your thing, you can always hit up a pub for some trad music. Pubs that often have live music in Dublin and are also known for their cozy atmosphere include O’Donoghues on Baggot Street, Cassidys and Devitts, both on Camden Street, and The Hairy Lemon on Stephen Street Lower. This casual date idea is perfect for a first date as well as a long-term couple. 

“The theatre is the perfect excuse for you and your date to get dressed up in all your finest Christmas attire.”

#12. Theatre

The 12th and last of our 12 dates of Christmas is a trip to the theatre. The theatre is the perfect excuse for you and your date to get dressed up in all your finest Christmas attire. While maybe not traditionally thought of as a choice for a first date, going to see a play or musical might actually provide you with something interesting to discuss over dinner or drinks after the show, rather than the usual, awkward small talk that first dates usually entail. Of course, sitting in silence for the duration of your time together is not the best way to get to know someone so maybe this one is better suited for a few dates down the line.

Whether you’re a fan of a Christmas panto or something more serious, there is something for everyone this winter. Pantos on this year include The Little Mermaid at the Gaiety Theatre, Red Riding Hood at the Helix and Snow White at Liberty Hall Theatre. If the panto isn’t your thing, treat yourselves to a unique Christmas experience at Smock Alley Theatre with dinner and a show. Dine first in the ornate Banquet Hall and then watch a stunning performance of All The Angels: Handel And The First Messiah. At the Abbey Theatre as well we have another more serious, but still Christmas-themed, performance of The Long Christmas Dinner by Thornton Wilder. 

To bring this 12 Dates of Christmas segment to a close, it’s worth bearing in mind that you don’t need a date or a significant other to enjoy these fun Christmas activities. Christmas may be a romantic time of year full of excitement and possibility, but it is also a time for cherishing friends and family. 

Heather Bruton

Heather Bruton is the Life Editor for Trinity News, and is completing a master's degree in Modern and Contemporary Literary Studies.