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Meet Father Christmas and step into a painter’s winter wonderland at the National Gallery

12 and 13 December, plus 17–23 December

Issued November 2020

For the first time, in 2020, Father Christmas is making a very special appearance at the National Gallery during the festive season.

During selected days in December, children and their parents or care-givers can come and meet Father Christmas with his elves and step into our painter’s winter wonderland inspired by the iconic National Gallery painting 'A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle' (about 1608–9) by Hendrick Avercamp (1585–1634).

Take a journey with the National Gallery and get to know the characters in Avercamp’s imaginary little town having fun in this wintery scene: playing, showing off, laughing or just falling over, all overlooked by the luscious pink castle that looks almost like a giant, iced Christmas cake!?

There is also an opportunity to put yourself in the painting and take photos whilst exploring three life-size seasonal scenes based on 'A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle', including skaters, Christmas trees and a sleigh.

There will be tasty treats in the Café to keep everyone warm and toasty, and a gift from Father Christmas for each child. 

At the end of the event, take a trip to Room 25 to see 'A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle', and all the other works in the National Gallery.

Santa’s helpers will make sure you and your family are kept COVID-safe and socially distanced. Entry to the event is staggered to allow one household/bubble at a time.

This event is suitable for children up to 12 years old. All children must be accompanied by an adult.

Tickets cost £20 per child (up to the age of 12), inclusive of entry to the experience and an age-appropriate gift from Santa. Adult tickets are £10 each (age 12 upwards), inclusive of entry into the experience and tea/coffee/soft drink and a mince pie.

You can find out more and book tickets now at

Notes to editors

'A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle'

Hendrick Avercamp (1585–1634)

About 1608–9

Oil on oak

40.7 x 40.7 cms

© The National Gallery, London


Seventeenth-century Dutch winters were notorious for their Arctic cold, with canals and rivers frozen over. In the little town that Hendrick Avercamp takes us to, everyone is out on the ice, making the best of it: working, playing, showing off, laughing, complaining, falling over or just about managing to stand up. Boats are frozen in; horses pull sleighs over the ice. The luscious pink castle looks almost like a giant, iced Christmas cake.

We look down from a height, so that the view of the town and beyond is wide and open. Each tiny figure is no bigger than a fingernail, yet Avercamp shows their personalities and, even if they have their backs to us, the story they have to tell. Avercamp led the way in making pictures of ‘life on the ice’. His career began at the time the Little Ice Age hit Northern Europe. He spent his life producing these winter pictures and only rarely left his town of Kampen – though the place in this painting is an imaginary town.

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