The lights went on across Ireland several weekends ago signalling the start of the festive season. Is it just me or does Christmas seems to be coming earlier every year? Every night I arrive home to more and more seasonal lights adorning my neighbour’s houses. And then there’s me. No lights. Not even a tree. Although it is only the first day of December, I feel as though I am very behind at Christmas even though the best of the season is still before us all.
With the fate of my Christmas tree hanging in the balance due to some Christmas Day travel this year, one thing remains absolutely certain: it’s time for my annual pilgrimage to the Continental Christmas Market in Belfast.
This market has set the Christmas Markets standard for me. Every year the green in front of gorgeous city hall plays host to a quaint village of wooden huts. Each selling a different and exciting treat or curiosity. Although it doesn’t change much year after year this market is consistently beautifully presented and complete with all the seasonal vibe you’re looking for. As you can imagine, I was super excited to hear that this year it has expanded to include 20 additional stalls outside the front of the market. The seasonal fervour must be building!
A trip to the market is not cheap – never cheap. Sometimes it is just best to do a calculated slow loop, looking at everything and then pick up a snack. Snack? I hear myself saying. The tasty treats on offer accounts for about 90% of the reason I am so excited for this year’s market. Check out the Progressive Dinner Menu at the end of this post!
As if I hadn’t said enough already, here is why we cannot wait for the Belfast Christmas Market!
Tiny pancakes are an Ennis Family tradition dating back to 2012. The only time we have not had Belfast Christmas Market tiny pancakes has been when we were living between Manila and Auckland. But I spent a lot of time thinking about them in their absence.
Tiny pancakes have a name – pofitjes. They are of dutch origin and they are to die for. Served piled high on a paper plate, dusted with icing sugar and coated in at least two of your choice of toppings. Good job we took a picture – they didn’t last long!
You can find almost the entire tri-nations in burger form. I’m serious. Kangaroo. Impala. The world meats you can get here are notorious. Wouldn’t you love to say you’ve eaten an Alligator? That would soar you right to the top of the food chain! Aside from burgers, there are plenty of other things to eat. Huge sausages (as opposed to tiny pancakes) seem to be really popular every year. They come in ‘eat me now’ and ‘take me home’ varieties. My mouth is watering…
So many kinds of fudge
Are you picking up on my food theme? Basically, Tiernan follows me stall to stall as I drool. That’s our entire market experience. There are several stalls offering fudge and nougat in all the flavours imaginable. They’re even better than the Berty Bott’s Every Flavour Beans from Harry Potter because they have only the good flavours – but ALL the flavours.
I also saw a stall selling giant chocolate kisses. The bullet shaped delights boast a similar plethora of flavours. I can’t believe I managed to walk away out of there alive.
When I am stuck for gift ideas I always end up going to the quirky. Bird feeders have been an attraction for me in past years. They make a mean bird feeder in Belfast. Sometimes it’s worth delving deeper into the market to find something unique. Ceramic garlic grating dishes, figures made or metal, or the gift I got for Tiernan – BEARD BALM. Although the photo I took was of the Beard Oil…
For all those bearded men out there The Belfast Beard Company has a stall dedicated to caring for the beard. They even sell beard baubles – now too cool to be hipster. All of their scents are named after some extremely Belfast phrase. We chose a balm scent called craic. Delicious.
So much soap
When you’re a Belfast Christmas Market regular you really start to pick up on the trends. You know there is going to be a soap stall. Normally Belfast Soap Company (see a theme) but they sadly closed their doors earlier in the year. I’m not sure who the replacement will be, but there will definitely be soap at this year’s market.
I love a bit of soap, myself, but am not a big user of the traditional bar. It’s the smell of them that I like. Is that weird? The relaxing power of lavender, my friends, it’s a real thing!
Official Christmas Market Progressive Dinner
The best way, in my humble opinion (heh), to get the most out of this market is to do a progressive dinner. Start with some sides or snacks then make your way around the market in search of the next course. Here are some of our top suggestions:
Sides: Consider some pommes frites from one of the sausage dealers, some sweet potato fries, or even a small serving of muscles.
Mains: Of course there is pizza and those huge European sausages in bread. But what you really need is one of those strange meats in a burger. Maybe a bit of paella (which doesn’t exactly go at all – but who cares, right?). Definitely bring some friends. Buy options and share a bit of each.
Wash it down: the mulled wine stall will be back. You can also find gourmet hot chocolate to inspire you on towards dessert. Did you know the market has two pubs? Because it does. Lavery’s has a traditional Irish pop-up pub right across the footpath from a continental style beer hall.
Dessert: Everyone struggles at this part. There are too many options! Crepes with almost any topping imaginable, churros with Nutella or my favourite, TINY PANCAKES (get in me).
To take home: Get a bag of that fudge or wrap up a chocolate kiss to take home for later!
Where would you say are the world’s best Christmas Markets? Tip me off in the comments. Also please let me know how you’ve liked this inaugural post of Celt & Kiwi!
Belfast Christmas Market will run until 6pm on Thursday 22nd December 2016. For full hours, see the Belfast City Council Website.