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Christmas Markets

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by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
There are three very persuasive reasons why you should do as much of your Christmas shopping as you can at a one of the UK's Christmas markets:

1. Pop-up events, from cinemas to restaurants are in, and Christmas markets are the original pop-up event.

2. This is where you'll source the kind of original gifts that you won't find in the department stores until next year when their buyer's catch on...

3. A genuinely festive atmosphere. At this time of year the shops descend into chaos as people, who're supposed to be channelling their good will to all men this season, turn BAD. But Christmas markets are places to browse with a cup of mulled wine, or a mince pie in your hand and chat with stall holders.

In fact while people fight their way round the shops under flickering strip lights in a sugar-depleted frenzy, Christmas market shoppers need go for no more than ten minutes without taking some sustenance amongst the wink of little festive fairy lights. And if that's not enough reason you're more likely to run into Santa picking up his bits at a Christmas market than at the mall aren't you.

These are some of biggest Christmas markets within a civilised train journey from London:

Portsmouth Victorian Christmas Festival
If, like Scrooge, you dream of Christmases past, this market will transport you there: into a bygone era of white Christmases, hearty food, carol singers, parlour games and pre-Coke Santas who still dress in green. Before the advent of traditions like falling asleep in front of a Bond film on Christmas afternoon, people had to put up with festive seasons spent in bawdy music halls, enjoying hearty food and heartily joining in with carolers – or at least that's what the organizers of this market, held in Portsmouth's Naval Base would have us believe. Of course there's also the shopping, the tree done in lights, and the eating and drinking that you'd expect from a Christmas market - just done up in more petticoats.
26th - 28th November

Canterbury Christmas Market
Canterbury is another town to go back in time at Christmas. It already has a medieval centre, and it's filled with the scent of outdoor cooking: bratwurst and roasting almonds will mingle
with the flavous wafting off glühwein.
19th November - 23rd December

Birmingham Christmas Market
Birmingham, Frankfurt is more like it over the festive season, from the genuine flavour of what you'll find here – sausages to woodcraft – to being able to claim that it's the largest Christmas market outside of Austria or Germany, the birthplaces of this holiday tradition.
18th November – 23rd December 2010

Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market
Winchester is a nice place to be at yule time because of the cathedral. And as is the case with so many of Europe's prettiest Christmas markets, the stalls sets up beneath it – around a ice rink, which serves to provide even more entertainment. There's room for about 75 wooden chalets surrounding it, providing skaters with Christmas refreshments and handmade arts and crafts to peruse before or after skating.
25th November – 19th December

Bath Christmas Market
Bath is a bit further from London, granted, but it's a really nice place to get away to for the weekend. And its Christmas market has 123 wooden chalet stalls, so it's conceivable that you'll find something for everyone there. As long as your friends and family like fine silks, handmade beauty products and luxury cheeses – for example. Bath Abbey provides both the backdrop and the market's traditional musical accompaniment.
25th November - 12th December

Lincoln Christmas Market
Lincoln's everyday setting of 12th Century cathedral and Norman castle is the kind of backdrop lesser appointed Christmas markets base their painted backdrops on. If not, then artists are certainly using the half timbered buildings as inspiration to illustrate fairy tales. Add to that an impressively large selection of wood carvings, jewellery, art works, ceramics, glassware, leather, candles, cakes, preserves, toys, decorations etc. which are all yours for the browsing; and of course you'll find sustenance in the form of mulled wine and roasted chestnuts.
2nd December - 5th December
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Why? 'Tis the season
When: From mid way though November
Where: A civilised train journey from London
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