For many businesses, the next few weeks will be a peak trading time as they look to make the most of the Christmas rush.

However, for Carmen and Chris Hunt, the festive season never ends.

For the last five years the couple have been running Christmas on the Lakes, in Bowness, which sells festive gifts, decorations, wrapping paper and anything else Yule Tide you could possibly think of.

Carmen came to the UK from her home in South Africa in the 1990s and soon met Chris.

"My granny was English and we must have been the only South African family who would have a proper English Christmas,” she says.

“My poor granddad would dress up as Father Christmas and by 12 o'clock his eyebrows were dripping because he'd put them on with cotton wool and Vaseline in 30 degrees.”

They took on a tea shop in the Cheddar Gorge which also had a section selling Christmas decorations.

“But then, even in the summer, the shop nearly got subsidence because everybody was down at the Christmas end, it was just unbelievable,” says Carmen.

Christmas became the main focus of the shop all year round and they decided to move to the Lakes to open a new business on Quarry Rigg.

They set about decorating the shop with a Dickensian ‘A Christmas Carol’ theme, complete with genuine whisky barrels, fireplace and an intricate display of gifts.

The shop is busy with customers all year round, no matter what the weather, says Carmen.

"We didn't dabble in anything else, we thought we're just going to do Christmas and that's what we do,” she says.

“We're busy when the Lakes are busy. Really in the summer holidays people start planning because they've only got six months to go.

“There are a lot of people who just love Christmas and they want to see it any time of the year. People do come and seek us out.”

In November 2020 the business was given a boost by an appearance on Channel 4 programme Steph’s Packed Lunch, with a twerking Santa proving particularly popular.

“By the time we left the stage and went back to the green room our Instagram and Facebook had gone through the roof,” says Carmen.

Carmen also works with holiday cottage company Heart of the Lakes to decorate properties especially to suit their visitors, for example those who are taking their first Christmas holiday as a married couple or as parents.

"I think to appreciate it, you just have to realise how many really, truly Christmassy people there are. It's still hard even for us. You do get some hardcore Christmas lovers, ” she says.

"It's quite contagious this time of year as it gathers momentum and you see children coming in and getting excited. You can't help but go along with it and enjoy it and keep the spirit alive.”

In Torpenhow, north Cumbria, Mark and Jenny Lee are busy preserving the spirit of Christmas in the form of cheese, around six or seven tonnes of cheese to be precise, which will all be sold over the festive period.

The pair set up the Torpenhow Cheese Company in 2019, making use of the delicious milk produced by pasture-fed cows on their 350-acre Park House Farm.

"We wanted to add value to this amazing milk that we've got and we thought we would process it ourselves and just have a single herd cheese," says Mark.

“At Christmas you’ll traditionally make 40 per cent of your sales for a cheese company.”

The business - which employs 10 people - is attending 24 Christmas markets over two months as well as supplying 16 companies, which include the likes of Cranstons and Cartmel Cheeses.

While work on festive supplies of blue cheese began a year ago, its Cheddar has been maturing for seven months while work on its Brie is well underway in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

In October the company picked up a gold and two bronze medals at the World Cheese Awards in Trondheim, Norway - going up against over 4000 cheeses from 40 countries.

"The awards were a real affirmation of what we’re doing,” says Mark.

Cheese will no doubt also be on the menu in Cumbria’s hotels and restaurants, who are also gearing up for a busy few weeks.

Ben Mayou, general manager at the Lakeside Hotel and Spa, near Newby Bridge, says it only has a handful of rooms still available for Christmas and a few more for the ‘twixmas’ period and New Year.

"It's a very competitive market, perhaps more so than in the past," says Ben, who is also chair of the Lake District Hotel Association.

"We're competing for perhaps a slightly smaller proportion of people. But you just need to make sure you're on your game and everything you offer is top notch.”

At Lakeside the hotel’s Christmas and New Year packages include a private charter boat trip on Windermere, complete with afternoon tea and live entertainment.

"I think people are shopping around, no doubt about it and people often use online third parties to try and hunt out the best deals,” says Ben.

“That's a shame really, because often the best deals are available by booking direct with us or other businesses.”

He says the most effective way of attracting guests to stay over Christmas is to give people a good experience so they book for the following year.

Over the last year the 73-room hotel has invested in sprucing up its public areas, creating a new games room for families and refurbishing two of its lodge suites, which have their own private garden running down to the lake complete with outdoor bath.

"I think when people do go away and want to spend their hard-earned money, they want to have an experience that's a step up from the norm,” says Ben.

“So we need to make sure that we deliver.”

At The Halston, in Carlisle, general manager Yann Bescombes, is also busy with Christmas trade.

"A lot of people are booking in February for Christmas, so once they've done the Christmas party they book straight away for the following year," says Yann.

"I would say 75 per cent to 80 per cent of our bookings are repeat business. That's a great situation to be in throughout the year. We already have most of the nights booked before we advertise.

"From mid November, all the way to the end of the year, every Friday and every Saturday, you are talking around 270 to 290 people.”

Meanwhile, in its restaurant Penny Blue, Yann says the hotel is seeing a trend towards people booking smaller parties of 10 or 20.

He says this is a sign that perhaps businesses are opting for a slightly lower key option than in previous years or different parts of a company are having their own parties rather than one large event for the whole firm.

"I think companies are not always wanting to do big things anymore and you see more divisions from each company getting together," says Yann.

"People still want to go out, they still want to have an experience, they want to have fun, it’s just they are going in smaller groups.”