A Christmas-mad mum has become the first customer to book on East Lancashire Railway’s (ELR) Santa Specials.

Holly Brailsford, 38, from Chorley, begins booking and buying gifts and outfits to dinner and events five months early to plan the perfect Christmas for her family.

The mum-of-one saves more than £200 a year through early-bird deals and summer sales and has saved £20 by becoming the first customer to book on ELR's Santa Special.

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The heritage railway, which runs through Bury, will be transformed into a Winter Wonderland with everything from carol singing polar bears to a magical talking Christmas tree.

Holly said that she dreams about Christmas all year round and celebrates in October with a family feast thanks to a 30-year tradition started by her dad Noel in 1993.

She said: “I’m super-organised.

“I'm not one to leave things to the last-minute, especially in December when you’ve only got three weekends really to be doing things with family and you’re trying to fit everything in.

“I like to get my important family things booked early.”

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Holly convinced her local pub to open their books early so she could reserve a spot for her family to have their Christmas Eve dinner.

She has already paid a deposit for the installation of her outdoor festive lights, as luckily for her, the area she lives in really likes to go to town with their outdoor decorations and attract visitors from miles away.

Holly added: “On the first Sunday of October when I was growing up, we’d have Christmas dinner with all the trimmings and Christmas music.

“People would ring the house and ask, ‘Why can I hear Slade playing in the background?’ “We’re just a very festive family.

“It was just a fun thing to do, and started when we were younger with just playing a bit of Christmas music - and then every year it just got bigger and bigger, now with jumpers, crackers and small gifts.

“My dad has since passed away and we’ve picked up the baton and take turns hosting it.

“Friends will text saying ‘Happy Whitman Christmas’. It’s a whole thing.”

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Holly has already snapped up tickets for Lancashire Railway’s Santa Specials and is looking forward to taking her son Oscar, three, and husband Ryan.

She said: “Christmas is magical.

“Oscar’s a lockdown baby and he’s only really started to come out of his shell this year.

“He’s been incredibly shy and timid around people. After about 20 minutes he was approaching the performers at the railway and how they interacted with the younger kids was beautiful.

“They were obviously experienced in dealing with children, from very little kids up to the teenagers, and for me that was the best bit - everybody just got stuck in.”

Lorna Kelly, sales and event manager of East Lancashire Railway, added: “We’re noticing a growing trend of families booking Christmas events early.

“Tickets are selling fast with people getting organised in the summer to avoid disappointment.

“Holly’s our first Christmas customer and we can’t wait to welcome her and her family to our Winter Wonderland.”

Tickets start from £23. To find out more about the Santa Specials and to book tickets for the event, click here.

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