Christmas is a busy time in care homes, so what things do residents – and staff – get up to at this time of year? Dan Parton reports.

While for many people Christmas is a time to be with their families, that’s not always possible for residents of care homes and nursing homes. But they by no means miss out on the festivities.

Indeed, according to Angela Hunt, Head of Operations at care homes group Anchor Trust, festivities are planned months in advance, with homes offering a mix of entertainments, excursions and events according to residents’ wishes.

Here, we give a run-down of some of the more popular events and activities in care homes during the festive period.

In this article:

  1. Christmas dinner
  2. Christmas party
  3. Carol concert
  4. Charity
  5. Preparing for Christmas
  6. Outings
  7. Staff plays
  8. Christmas-themed activities
  9. Father Christmas visit
  10. Christmas Day

Christmas dinner

No matter what age, many people love a traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. Many care homes employ their own chef(s) and they provide a home-cooked dinner for residents. This is often flagged up as a major event – whether it happens on Christmas Day or in the run-up to it.

Christmas party

The Christmas dinner is sometimes packaged together with a party. Here, residents’ relatives and friends are often invited to join in with the festivities, which typically include such things as buffet, raffles and entertainers.

For example, when residents at the Rivington View Nursing Home in Horwich had their Christmas party, they were entertained by magician Zooka and guests included the local mayor.

Carol concerts

Many care homes have good links to local schools. Often, a choir from a nearby primary or secondary school will visit a care home in the run up to Christmas to perform a carol concert for residents. Also, local Brownie or Cub Scout groups may do something similar.


Some care homes get into the Christmas spirit by giving to charity. For example, residents at some homes contribute to things like Operation Christmas Child, an annual project where individuals, schools, churches, businesses and other organisations fill ordinary shoe boxes with small toys, school supplies, sweets, and other gifts for needy children around the world.

Preparing for Christmas

Just because care home residents are not in their own home does not mean they don’t want to do their own preparations for Christmas.

“When you live in your own home, preparing for the festive season is a really big part of Christmas,” says Angela Hunt, Head of Operations for Anchor Homes. “We give residents the opportunity to do all the things they normally would, such as making cakes and decorations and doing their Christmas shopping.”

Meanwhile, at the Riversway Nursing Home in Bristol, local traders made Christmas shopping easier for residents by taking a host of gifts along to the home for them to buy.


At Christmas time, there are many places that care home residents get the opportunity to visit. Popular trips include visits to a local pantomime or a church for carol concerts, to shopping centres for Christmas shopping, or a local pub for a Christmas meal – and no doubt the odd drink as well.

In all cases, transport is provided to and from the venue, which makes it easier for those who are less mobile.

For example, residents at Leeming Bar Grange in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, enjoyed a trip on the Santa Express, operated by Wensleydale Railway. On the journey, residents and their families enjoyed mulled wine and mince pies, as well as a visit from Father Christmas.

Staff plays

Some care homes even put on their own plays for residents, with staff playing the roles. For example, St Cecilia’s care home in Scarborough recently put on a traditional nativity play for its residents, among other events.

Christmas-themed activities

While activities go on all year round in the majority of care homes, some event coordinators tailor residents’ activities to suit the season. For example, in regular arts and crafts sessions, Christmas cards can be made.

In addition, professional actors and performers, including singers and classical musicians, often visit care homes to entertain residents who find it more difficult to get out to the theatre.

Father Christmas visit

Some care homes receive a visit from Father Christmas himself. Indeed, he will be visiting some of the care homes in the Anchor Trust group to delight residents – and their younger relatives who may be visiting them – on Christmas Day.

Christmas Day

Also on Christmas Day, some care homes try to make the day as much as it is like for many people in the own homes. For example, at the Marriott House care home in Chichester on Christmas Day the carers visit all the residents in their rooms with presents, which is followed by a get-together and a glass of sherry, according to Sally Van Beck, receptionist/administrator at the home.

“Then there is a big Christmas lunch - some of the residents go home, while some others have their relatives come in and have lunch with them,” Sally adds. “Then they watch the Queen’s speech and – like most people – fall asleep in the afternoon.”