It’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas, especially as the Christmas market is making a welcome return to the grounds of Belfast City Hall. It has become such a familiar part of our landscape since it first arrived in 2004 that you may think you’ve seen it all, but there are a few new treats as well as the familiar available from this weekend.
Discover Northern Ireland asked me to do a video sampling its delights a few years ago. I tried everything from the vension burgers, ;massive strawberry Steins and mini pancakes – all of which have returned this year. Have a watch, hopefully it will get you in the mood to go and not put your off!
As an extra incentive, here are some fun facts from the Christmas 2016 market….it would be great to hear what you’re looking forward to – get in touch @grainnemcgarvey or leave a message below!
1. There are 32 different nationalities represented from as far away as South Africa as well as the local traders who make up over 30% of the stalls. This year as we are celebrating the finale of Year of Food and Drink 2016, an additional 20 chalets have been built at the front of the market along the external perimeter explicitly to celebrate local food and craft producers.
2. Santa’s Grotto donations are given to the Lord Mayor’s charity of choice. This year’s charity is the Children’s Cancer Unit – a charity that exists solely to support the work of the Children’s Cancer and Haematology Unit at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children and their families.
3. The vintage Dutch Pofitjes stall which serves up bite size Dutch pancakes, has been in the Visser family since the 1880s. They have travelled the globe serving up millions of tiny pancakes with an array of toppings, the most popular one being the traditional Dutch topping of icing sugar, chocolate and butter, yum yum.
4. The Christmas Market runs a Buddy Scheme which is where groups or individuals with accessibility challenges can come along on Monday – Wednesday from 10 until 12 and have a quieter experience at the market. When possible, you can meet the Market Manager for a bit of a tour a little bite to eat!
5. Over 500 schoolchildren come to the market each year for an Education Tour. They get a tour of the Market, get to taste foods from all over the world and learn from the traders about the Christmas traditions in their countries. This is all supported by a downloadable Education Passport which contains lots of learning activities for teachers to carry out with their students before and after their visit.
6. The Christmas Market sponsors young businesses through an initiative called Pitch Perfect. Winners receive a free pitch at the market and lots of business mentoring. This year the wining business is the Belfast Beard Company offering beard oils and accessories for the perfectly coiffed beard.
7. Many traders are here right up until Christmas, so they love buying their Christmas presents for their families in Belfast. It’s fair to say that items bought in shops all over the city end up all over the world in children’s stockings!
8. This year the Market has commissioned the Irish Fairy Door Company to create a Fairy Trail around the market so little folk can hunt for the magic Fairy Doors during their exploration of the market – and who knows, they might even run into a real live Fairy!
The Belfast Christmas market runs from noon on Saturday 19 November until Thursday 22 December. More info can be found here
Spotting local hidden gems from the world of beauty, health, fashion, tourism and hospitality. I have my ear to the ground (quite literally) to keep you up to date about the new or interesting products and services from our neck of the woods. If you know one – get in touch on twitter @grainnemcgarvey or atwww.pulseprni.com