The beginning of December means one thing to the people in the area in which I live – and I’m not talking about children starting to open their Advent Calendars! For the past thirty-two years, the first weekend of December brings the Lincoln Christmas Market.
This is a wonderful event, which draws more and more visitors each year, with an estimated 250,000 for 2014. Yet Lincoln is a relative newcomer to the world of Christmas markets, and that figure hardly comes close to those of many such markets across continental Europe.
In Germany, the number of visitors per year is staggeringly high, with Cologne reaching an awesome 4 million! Stuttgart and Frankfurt both receive 3 million, and Nuremburg and Dresden welcome 2 million. However, many Christmas markets are held for a whole month – even some of those in England, including York – and not for just a long weekend, as is Lincoln’s. So I suppose that puts things a little more into perspective.
I know that Christmas markets are now held in many U.S. cities too, but like most British ones, they’re undoubtedly a little more recent than those on continental Europe, which have their origins back in the Middle Ages. Christmas markets were also common in England up to the 17th century -when Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas! The Victorians reintroduced them, after a fashion. Then, markets were held during the weeks leading up to Christmas but, although Christmas goods were offered, the markets never became known as ‘Christmas’ markets.
The Lincoln market is one of the oldest in England and the first one to be ‘German-styled’. It started in 1982 following the ‘twinning of the city with Neustadt in Germany, with an initial eleven stalls standing between the cathedral and castle. The Lincoln market has only been cancelled once, in 2010, when we were ‘snowed out’. Health and Safety aspects could not be ignored.
This year was the first time my husband and I, along with one of our two daughters, had visited during daylight hours. I have to say, it’s so much more atmospheric at night, with all the lovely lights and the wonderful backdrop of the medieval Cathedral and Norman castle all lit up.But even in the daytime, the whole area has a quaint medieval feel, with the cobbled streets and age-old shops and houses. It’s also absolutely packed at night.
But even in the daytime, the whole area has a quaint medieval feel, with the cobbled streets and age-old shops and houses. It’s also absolutely packed at night.
There are 250 stalls at the Lincoln market, many in the traditional, wooden, chalet design, others in tents or marquees. Many are inside the castle walls or outside the cathedral; others take over car parks or are spread along the streets.
This means that parking in the area is a definite no-no. But Lincoln City Council obligingly lay on a ‘park and ride’ system, whereby visitors can drive out to the huge Lincoln Showground where they leave their cars and hop on a bus. These run every 7 minutes. Most people agree that the convenience and ease well compensate for the cost, as the buses take us very close to the market.
People also come to the Christmas Market on charter trains – lovely old steam engines which add to the Victorian theme of the market. Our fifteen-year old grandson has always had a ‘thing’ about steam engines, and photographs and films them all over the country. Today (Saturday) two great huffing steam trains brought people to the market, and Kieran kindly emailed these photos for me to use.
The stalls come from both local people and places much further afield; some from other areas of the U.K., others from places in Europe. These are from Germany – sausages, biscuits, salami, wines . . .
Produce can be anything from cooked or uncooked foods, chocolates and fudge, deliciously scented mulled wines and hot roasted chestnuts to ales and wines to handcrafted good of all kind of materials – leather and suede, wood, wrought iron, brass, slate and so on. Then, there are areas of entertainment for children , including fun-fair rides and a big Ferris wheel.
Music is everywhere, from pre-recorded Christmas carols to buskers producing music both old and new. One young lady was making huge bubbles using two fishing-line-type devices for the children to chase.
All good fun. And best of all were the many Dickensian characters behind the wonderful stalls or merely wandering about . . .
The highlight of my visit was to find a stall from Sweden. I really enjoyed chatting to the two ‘Vikings’ there who were selling typical Swedish and ‘Viking’ goods, including wooden tankards, and face masks or helmets like the ‘Sutton Hoo’ replica. There were also Thor’s Hammer amulets. I just had to have one of those! It’s only small (the larger ones were a bit pricey!) but it’s great.
Well, that’s it for the Lincoln Christmas Market for another year. Next Saturday we’re off to York. The Christmas market there lasts from November 27 to December 21, but it will probably be just as packed. But then, isn’t everywhere in the month before Christmas?