Avoid online shopping and sales - get to the Christmas markets

In a world dominated by tax avoiding shopping behemoths and faceless super chains, it’s nice to experience some interaction with stall owners

Related Topics

Ah Christmas. I know it must be around the corner because the Coca Cola advert is back, along with John Lewis’ most recent attempt to emotionally blackmail me into buying expensive items from their stores. This year their Christmas advert features Bear and his best friend, Hare. Bear has never seen Christmas before, but once Hare drops a gift by his lonely cave, he ventures outside and discovers all the other animals exchanging presents; the true meaning of Christmas, apparently.

Feel free to call me Scrooge, but I don’t recognise this as Christmas. Considering last week's viral videos of Black Friday shoppers punching each other to claim exorbitantly priced items, at only fractionally less exorbitant prices, it’s no wonder Bear hid in his cave.

But fear not, there is an alternative, the German Christmas market - providing plentiful amounts of seasonal spirit. Or as Germans succinctly put it: Weihnachtsstimmung. It’s big business in Europe, with previous related spending reaching €5 billion. Birmingham’s Christmas market has been the UK’s best effort until now, set to attract record numbers this year, but there are also signs that Londoners are waking up to the tradition.

And so we should. As Ellie Gill, Head of the government backed Love Your Local Market campaign explained, it’s the “independent atmosphere, the tradition, unique gifts and the personability you get at Southbank and other local alternatives. Not forgetting the mulled wine and cider!”  In a world dominated by tax avoiding online shopping behemoths and faceless super chains manned by unfulfilled twenty-somethings, it’s nice to experience some interaction with stall owners. There’s a level of engagement – from kids wide eyed at the bright lights, to merry adults haggling over prices – that doesn’t exist on social media, no matter how hard we push it. Browsing the markets can be a family occasion, offering delicious food along the way.

These markets can reflect our nation’s multiculturalism. This weekend sees the UK’s first International Festive Fair open at the Business Design Centre in Islington. The event promises to foster a truly international feel, with stall owners travelling from around the world to attend, bringing unique gifts with them. Finding charming, one-off gifts from far away nations is not something high street superstores provide at an affordable price. 

There’s also a broader perspective. Despite George Osborne’s best celebratory rhetoric, we are still in a deep recession affecting real people; customers and stall owners alike. Our escape route lies in small businesses. Appreciating the huge part the street and Christmas market industry can play in this grassroots foundation, this Saturday sees SmallBizSaturday roll out across London and nationwide. Since being launched in the US in 2010, it has generated the equivalent of £3.5 billion. Considering the UK launch is taking place on the busiest shopping day off the year, there is hope a similar impact can be achieved in London and elsewhere.

I’ll leave the final word on why you should support Christmas markets this festive season to Clara Jung, a German gap-year volunteer visiting London, who I spoke to whilst browsing Crafty Fox’s Brixton market:

“In Germany it’s a tradition, a thing you do with your friends or family to find the Christmas spirit. I'd say these are things which high street shops don't offer, because these products are usually sold by personally. Corporations just see my money, but these Christmas markets are full of spirit; a warm experience...even if they are outside”.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'Our media are suffering a new experience: not fear of being called anti-Semitic'  

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk
David Cameron (pictured) can't steal back my party's vote that easily, says Nigel Farage  

Cameron’s benefits pledge is designed to lure back Ukip voters. He’ll have to try harder

Nigel Farage
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In my grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel