Traders are gearing up for their busiest time of the year, as folk flock to the markets to enjoy the special attractions laid on to pull in the Christmas shoppers. Dave Phillips investigates what’s happening this festive season

 CHRISTMAS is a time for family, friends and festive fun. Everyone’s at home relaxed, wearing party hats, opening presssies, pulling crackers and feasting in food and drink, preferably in front of a crackling log fire. But to get to that state of affairs, millions of people had to shop until they dropped — very often at the nation’s bustling markets.

The weeks leading up to Christmas are usually the busiest in the market traders’ calendar, with shoppers searching for gifts, decorations, trees, wreaths, food and drink. It’s the time of year when canny market managers brighten up the stalls with colourful lights and organise special attractions to pull in the crowds, whether it’s Santa on a reindeer-hauled sleigh, or a local choir singing our favourite carols.The weather outside might well be frightful, but nothing will stop determined shoppers from enjoying the unique atmosphere of their local market at Christmas. So let it snow, we say.This month’s MTN cover star, veteran rocker Noddy Holder, must have known Penkridge Market when he was growing up in the Black Country. But I wonder if it was as much fun then as it is these days? There’s certainly plenty going on there this year.


They will be holding Fine Food and Craft Markets on Saturday November 16 and December 21, selling a wide range of festive foods, gifts, toys and crafts, as well as trees, wreaths and decorations Admission and parking are free, and with an indoor market too, it’s a great place to shop, whatever the weather.

Penkridge is typical of many markets and is a great place to tick off everyone on your Christmas list. For children there will be stalls selling toys, clothes, and personalised gifts, as well as stocking fillers such as sweets, stationery and books. For the men there will be tools, watches, jigsaws and fail-safe gifts like socks, toiletries and chocolates, while for the ladies there’s everything from clothes, handbags and jewellery to candles, perfume and toiletries.

If it’s your turn to cook the Christmas lunch, a market is the perfect place to buy all of your ingredients for a fantastic roast. Expect meat, poultry and game fresh from the farm, as well as traditional fruit and veg stalls (and don’t forget those all-important brussels sprouts).

Discerning shoppers expect plenty of choice, especially when it comes to locally-produced cheeses, breads, pickles, preserves, homemade cakes and puddings. The more the merrier, because canny market managers realise that punters will home in on markets with a reputation for multiple stalls selling these goods.

If you still need to buy your Christmas turkey, there is no better place than a local market. Returning to Penkridge, the market there holds Christmas poultry auctions which will be held on December 19 and 23, with around 300 oven-ready birds going under the hammer in each auction, including turkeys, geese, ducks and chickens, all reared on local farms. These sales are open to the public and, like all auctions, are a lot of fun.

Over in Cumbria, the organiser of Barrow Market Hall, the indefatigable Jacqui Armstrong, has got a host of special festive events planned for the lucky inhabitants of Barrow in Furness, starting on Wednesday December 4 with children from St Pius School singing carols and running a tombola. They must love to keep their eyes down for a full house out Barrow way, because more tombolas  follow on Friday 6th, Saturday 7th, Saturday 14th, Monday 16th, Wednesday 18th and Friday 20th.

There is also the Barrow Bid School Christmas Choir Competition in the Market Hall on Friday 6th, with the Barrow Male Voice Choir performing the following day.