‘Tis the season to be jolly when Dublin families hit the theatres for their annual dose of panto.

Almost everyone who grew up in Dublin will remember the buzz of being brought to the Christmas panto and seeing crazy characters in outrageous costumes, dancing and singing and joking while the audience interacts with them.

Theatre snobs may look down on the time honoured panto but it is the first taste of theatre for many people, and brings great joy and pleasure when done well.

As an artform, pantomime can trace its roots back to the ancient Romans, but it was the Victorians who created the form of panto we know and love today by taking fairy tales and retelling them in a humorous way.

Well-performed pantomime can be brilliant, creating a special bond between performers and the audience. Here’s our verdict on three of the best Christmas pantos in Dublin…

The Civic Theatre panto

The Civic’s panto in the heart of Tallaght this year is the ever hilarious Jack & The Beanstalk, a spectacular treat for the whole family.

Its cast includes YouTube sensation Enya Martin (Giz A Laugh) as the hilarious ‘Instafairy’, Sorcha Furlong as the evil Baroness (best known as Orla in Fair City), Morgan Crowley as Dame Dottie (a West End veteran and EastEnders actor).

Jack & The Beanstalk is now running until January 6 with two performances daily including seven schools’ shows and a sensory-friendly performance. A family ticket costs €55 with free parking in The Civic car park from 4pm; contact the Box Office at 01 462 7477.

The Helix panto

At DCU, Robin Hood opened in the Helix at the end of last month, impressing audiences with all its usual wit, magic and fun.

Once again produced by TheatreworX Productions, the cast includes Ireland’s premier tenor Paul Byrom as the Sheriff of Nottingham, Chris Corroon as Dame Lola, Ciara Mackey as Maid Marion and Gavin Ryan as Robin Hood.

Best of all, 100% of the proceeds from this show will go directly to Temple Street Children’s University Hospital – last year’s panto raised €12,000!

Robin Hood runs until January 20 and tickets are €19.50. Call the Box Office at 01 700 7000.

The Gaiety panto

Last but definitely not least, The Gaiety has really outdone itself this year, as The Snow Queen is one of the coolest and funniest pantos in Dublin this Christmas.

Hosting Christmas pantos each year since 1873, The Gaiety is an old hand at staging superb shows, with this year’s stellar cast included West End star Louise Bowden as the Snow Queen, Nicholas Grennell as Jack Frost and Joe Conlan as a hilarious Panto Dame.

Tickets are on sale from €19.50 (including booking fee) from Ticketmaster outlets and the Box Office; see www.gaietytheatre.ie and www.ticketmaster.ie.