What signals the start of Christmas to you? Putting up the decorations and the tree? Starting the shop for those special gifts? The Coca Cola advert on the TV (holidays are coming, holidays are coming…). Well for me, Christmas comes when I go to see the always fabulous Christmas ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome. And if that ballet happens to be The Nutcracker staged by the Birmingham Royal Ballet, then I am truly in seventh heaven.There is just so much to recommend The Nutcracker as the perfect Christmas viewing. From the moment the curtains open to reveal the enormous, and totally exquisite Christmas tree, the scene is set for a ballet that is a visually stunning feast for the eyes. The snowy winter wonderland scene is another standout, it actually brings a lump to the throat with its sheer loveliness. The performances are excellent. Iain Mackay makes an energetic and exciting Drosselmeyer, whilst Momoko Hirata, who is in virtually every scene as Clara, is more than up to the task, and is an enchanting presence. The always excellent Nao Sakuma and Chi Cao, are fabulous of course, in the roles of The Prince and The Sugar Plum Fairy and a special mention must also go to Jenna Roberts as the Snow Fairy – simply beautiful. The Nutcracker is at the Birmingham Hippodrome until December 12th. Buy, beg or steal a ticket – it will make your Christmas truly begin.