While living distantly aroud greater London, I’ve made annual visits to the Southbank Christmas Market along the Thames. It started as a faint echo of the established collections of gift stalls, food, and music across Northern Europe. It would be better, I thought, if they just embraced their own Victorian Christmas celebrations, widely mimicked in the US.
However, Southbank Winter Festival has matured into something special, while the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is grown comfortable with its own sprawling kitsch. I take each for what it is, a reflection of how people think about Christmas as well as how they celebrate it.
Redmond, WA, is not Maastricht nor London. But its town market has the same mix of inward-looking tradition and backward-looking aspiration. There is a grand carousel, covered with lights. An ice rink filled with children, learning. Yule tree, Sinterklaas-hut (minus the bishop’s hat and mitre), an orchestral choir (belonging to my next-door neighbour) singing classical European carols.
The styles of celebration do mingle. To see how much, I passed through The British Pantry, a grocer and restaurant catering to homesick British expats. It’s always an intriguing store, like someone walked through a Tesco scooping random bits of ordinary off the shelves. Mustards and sauces, biscuits and pickles, chocolates and teas, all at everyday double-prices. It’s a delight. I treated myself to a pudding and a mince pie.