Holiday momentum seemed to have been building before I even arrived in the UK (which was early November). Now, a month later it is most definitely in full swing. Every city, town or village (no matter how small) will inevitably have a Christmas Fair. So far I’ve encountered 3 in Leicester alone (no doubt more to come), with popular shopping streets and specific areas hosting their own mini-fair. Any excuse for a party.
The annual Christmas Kick-Off was on 22 November in the city centre, with the main attraction being the Christmas light switch on, where all the decorations and trees are lit up in one big go. In addition, the main stage featured musical entertainment all day, there were various troupes and performers wandering the streets, carnival rides, reindeer, a big wheel, festive displays, etc. The Winter Food & Drink Festival was also taking place at Leicester Market (Europe’s largest covered market), so there was plenty of food, beverages, cooking demonstrations and tons of people.
It could be said that the weather was incredibly mild that day and into the evening; there was no snow and surprisingly it didn’t rain. However I was still cold and on a few occasions we had to duck into a shop to get the blood flowing again. The main shopping centre (The Highcross) had Santa’s castle all set up, with loads of kids waiting to get close. Although, it was less of a castle and more of a snow-globe, which is fine if that’s how UK Santa wants to roll, except upon further investigation, it looks like Santa is under quarantine.
There was such a huge crowd that the entire length of Humberstone Gate (a wide pedestrian walkway) was completely filled and ended up overflowing into the adjoining streets (where we ended up standing). Being so far away from the main stage, the sound was pretty poor and we missed the countdown, only realising about half way through; there was a a discernible pause, with everyone convinced that there was an electrical glitch and then the lights flicked on. Rather anti-climatic, but the atmosphere was quite spectacular.
A few weeks later Allandale Road had a Christmas Fair (my presence was not graced), and then Clarendon Park-Queen’s Road followed suit (attended)! Just being single shopping streets, the scale was much smaller, but no less interesting to see. The main focus with these minor fairs would be to benefit local trades-people, local businesses. The entire length of street was lined on either side with stalls selling handmade goods: baking, preserves, ornaments, candles, knick-knacks, jewellery, clothing, pictures, etc. There were a few kiddie rides, a rather rickety looking stage featuring choirs, cheerleaders, and musicians.
Weather was mildly pleasant until it started to pour rain (which was definitely not in the forecast), but by that point I’d nipped into a coffee shop and sipped my beverage slowly to wait it out.
I looked with my eyes, not with my wallet. Showing a considerable amount of restraint (“oooh I like that bracelet…it’s £70?…it’s pretty ugly now”) I only came away with 2 miniature tubes of toothpaste from the dental stall (which were free), because the guy offering the handouts was continuously being rejected and I felt sorry for him. To be fair, a dental stall is quite possibly the least exciting table one could have. But at least my oral hygene will be up to scratch.