MERLy Christmas: begin the festive season this year at The MERL

On 27 November 2022, for Museum Shop Sunday, we’re beginning our Christmas celebrations this year with MERLy Christmas – an annual day of festive cheer in the museum shop and café, complete with Christmassy crafts and carol singing from a children’s choir at the University of Reading (Universal Voices)!

In this blog, join Angela (The MERL’s Visitor Services Supervisor and shop manager) as she shares several ideas for gifts you can find in our shop this Christmas.

The MERL shop decorated for Christmas.

Christmas must-haves

Christmas is always an exciting time of year in the museum shop. We have been busy behind the scenes getting ready for a while, contacting suppliers across the country as we source a range of unique, quality, and charming products unlike any you’ll find elsewhere in Reading. From locally sourced honey to toys, homeware, and sweet treats, we’re so excited to be sharing these products with you and finally have them up on our shop shelves!

High among our festive favourites are the gorgeous advent calendars produced by illustrator and printmaker Angela Harding. Working from her studio in Rutland, Angela creates beautiful artworks that portray the animals and landscapes you can find throughout the British countryside. In fact, you may even recognise Angela’s style from book covers; she has had a long and distinguished career of providing art for international publishers. Each year, Angela creates an advent calendar with a different theme. This year’s theme is curlews: wading birds well-known for their long beaks. We only have a small number of the items remaining, so if you’re after an advent calendar, look no further!

An advent calendar.

Much like advent calendars, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a hearty stock of cards, and we have a great range available depicting wintery places, scenes, and animals. Many of the cards we source are produced by independent artists, and you can find information about each card’s maker on the reverse! Plus, we also make our own cards featuring highlights from the collections at The MERL and the University of Reading Special Collections (which share our building). If you have followed us on social media over the years, you may well recognise this unusual lobster-riding mouse (a Victorian artwork) who returns in our Christmas line once again, among other gems from the collections.

Christmas cards in The MERL shop.

We love putting up the Christmas decorations (you may have noticed from our photos that the shop is looking rather festive), and we have a fabulous choice of rural-themed ornaments in stock: from our delightful tractor snow globes to hand-knitted sheep and reindeer made by the Mewes Knitters (the museum’s knitting group). And for extra cosiness in wintertime, we have a range of diffusers, tea lights, and advent candles, with scents including include winter thyme, orange and cinnamon, and embers (the smoky notes of a woodsmoke fire). They’re lovely products and will all make perfect gifts.

Christmas decorations in The MERL shop.


The history of cheesemaking is depicted in The MERL galleries (indeed, Reading has a rich dairying past), so it only feels right that we should stock some cheese in the museum shop. And besides: who doesn’t love a good excuse for buying some cheese?

This Christmas, our cheese selection will feature several festive flavours, brought in from cheesemaking regions across the UK. We have a range of waxed truckles from the Cheshire Cheese Company and the Snowdonia Cheese Company, with flavours including Christmas cranberry and sticky toffee. We are also getting some Lancashire Bombs (Lancashire cheese covered in black wax, very reminiscent of the ACME bombs of Roadrunner fame). We’ll have these at MERLy Christmas, so come and look!


2022 has been a big year here for biscuits. Throughout the year, Reading has marked two hundred years since the opening of a family bakery on London Street in 1822 that soon grew into Huntley & Palmers; a biscuit-making company that became the largest in the world, placing Reading on the global stage in a way we hadn’t known since the dissolution of Reading’s royal abbey in the 16th century.

We are thrilled to celebrate this major Huntley & Palmers anniversary in our gift shop through a new line of merchandise, featuring iconic H&P designs and branding from the University’s archives and collections.

Huntley & Palmers products in The MERL gift shop.

Explore the range in our shop and take local history home with you; the ideal gifts for anyone with a passion for local heritage (and biscuits)!

A tea towel featuring Huntley & Palmers' Christmas biscuits.

At the same time, we’re always continuing to build on our merchandise options inspired by our varied collections. This year we introduced a range of products depicting vivid details from our wall hanging by Michael O’Connell, and new items are on their way, including pencil cases featuring O’Connell’s delightful portrayals of cows and tractors, as well as stationery for children!

These complement many more products in our stock inspired by our viral social media posts (including, of course, the Internet’s most venerated sheep).

Two new pieces of MERL merchandise available on the Art UK shop.


We are very excited ahead of MERLy Christmas this Sunday. It’s a chance to explore our range of gifts and enjoy a warm and festive atmosphere. The event is free to attend, and everyone is welcome. Plus, all proceeds from sales go towards supporting our work and helping to make possible everything we do. We’d love to see you there!

Find out more about MERLy Christmas, learn how you can shop with us in person and online, or explore our other events taking place throughout the festive season below.

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