CHRISTMAS is a time for giving, festive fun and often over-indulgence, but there is plenty happening in Limerick to keep the entire family entertained and happy this holiday period.
Be it racing or rugby for dads, the thrills and spills of panto fun for the kids, shopping across the region for mum, live music and outdoor activities to burn-off the Christmas calories - Limerick has it all in spades to fill up the festive calendar.
One of the jewels in the local sporting calendar is the feast of racing that will satisfy even the heartiest of appetites at Limerick Racecourse - a four day bumper package of National Hunt Racing, starting on St Stephen’s Day.
The Limerick Christmas Racing Festival drew upwards of 35,000 punters out to the Patrickswell racetrack last year, with more than 12,000 attending on December 26, and with live racing action from 12.30pm each day, Russell Ferris, general manager of the racecourse, expects numbers to increase again this year.
“The attendance is always very strong and St Stephen’s Day is the big one, it is the day that everybody wants to be here and the yearly race goer makes an appearance. People meet friends and family and have a catch-up, so it is very much a social day - as are all four days,” he explained.
“The atmosphere is fantastic, every horse is cheered coming off the home bend onto the home straight. The numbers at the moment are very positive - we are well ahead of last year’s figures, probably 10 or 15%.”
While Munster play away to Connacht this Saturday, the team will return to Thomond Park on December 29 at 5.30pm - a game that will draw a large capacity crowd into the stadium for the inter-provincial clash.
The family staple of panto is at a Christmas peak this year, with a choice of three excellent shows on offer; in the Belltable - CentreStage’s Jack and the Beanstalk (running until January 5); in the Lime Tree Theatre - Limerick Panto Society’s Beauty and the Beast (running from December 28-January 6) and the University Concert Hall’s Cinderella (opening on Friday and running until January 6).
For those seeking a last minute Christmas gift, Limerick Local Heroes, in collaboration with Limerick Traders’ Association, are to host a Christmas Artisan Fair on Bedford Row this weekend.
The event will feature 22 local stall holders under a covered marquee offering a host of festive gifts, crafts and food in the heart of Limerick city from Friday (2pm-8pm) plus Saturday and Sunday (12pm-6pm) with high quality craft, artisan food producers and vendors of delicious food and drink.
For those seeking some outdoor activities, we recommend either of the swims on Christmas morning in Castleconnell - from World’s End at 12.30pm - and Newport - from Ivy Bridge at 12.45pm. There is also a 10 km guided forestry walk through the Slieve Feilim hills on St Stephen’s Day, which starts at 12 noon sharp at the forestry entrance at Crehane, Cappamore (contact Seamus on 087-2673322).
For some seasonal music, head to St Mary’s Cathedral on December 23 for the annual carols performance.
Finally, our top tip for some abstract Christmas fun is The Rubberbandits’ Annual Xmas Show in Dolan’s Warehouse on December 29, at which the duo will mark another top 12 months with a homecoming gig unlikely to feature carols, and very likely to feature profanity, hip-hop and the Bandits’ acerbic wit.