Festive Favourites - Part One

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Tis the season to be jolly... TRA LA LA LALA LA LA LAAAAA! Despite the particularly bad turn in the weather, this is still a time of year that drives people from their homes, and not just into the shops. As everyone needs a break from the hustle and bustle of hunt for the perfect present, below we are offering some suggestions for suitably festive distractions. Which of course does indeed contain some markets...

Belfast Christmas Market

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Arguably the most well-known market thanks to its twice yearly visits to the grounds of the Belfast City Hall, the Belfast Christmas Market has returned, ready to fulfil all your wintry impulse buys. This year's event will have even more variety to choose from, including a new spacious eating area where you can sit, relax and enjoy the tasty delights that the market has to offer. The Market fun starts outside the gates of the City Hall, on Donegall Square North, with 20 traders offering a range of high quality goods from their hand-crafted chalets. Inside the gates visitors will find an exciting selection of hand-painted pottery, continental food, fancy festive decorations, and a wide range of festive arts and crafts from across Europe and beyond. The council has also announced the return of the market's 'Buddy Scheme'. Keen to promote accessibility for everyone, the market is inviting individuals with additional accessibility requirements to attend, with or without a buddy, during a quieter time of day – 10am -12 noon, Monday – Wednesday. Free tours of the market can be provided, with advanced booking. Of course, Santa's Grotto will be back, where you can not only meet the big man, but you can make sure your letter is definitely delivered. Opening hours:
  • Monday - Wednesday: 3pm - 6pm
  • Thursday - Friday: 2pm - 7pm
  • Saturday: 11am - 7pm
  • Sunday: Noon - 6pm
If you post Santa a letter via his post box, in the grounds of the Belfast Christmas Market, by 21 December, you can expect to receive a letter back from Father Christmas! More information, including how to book tours, can be found here.

Days of Christmas Past

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This festive season your invited to take your family back in time to experience the magic of a traditional Christmas at the Ulster American Folk Park. Gather around the warmth of the turf fire and enjoy readings from The Night before Christmas, singalong with the Christmas Mummers, taste seasonal treats and meet Santa and Mrs Claus in his workshop. Take home a treasured memory of your day spent in Christmas past by purchasing a special photograph with Santa & Mrs Claus. The event takes place at the Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh, from 9th - 17th December. Go to nmni.com for more information and to book.

Santa Paws at The Dirty Onion

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Calling all you dog owners, leave your pooch at home no more, well on Sunday 3rd December anyway. You and little Fido are invited to a festive afternoon to meet the one and only Santa Paws at the Dirty Onions' very own snow globe grotto! The Dirty Onion are getting into the Christmas spirit this season offering customers personalised photographs with their pooch and Santa Paws for just £10 including a card frame and doggy treats. The event takes place at the Dirty Onion on Hill Street in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter between 12-4pm on Sunday 3rd December. thedirtyonion.com

A Derry Little Christmas

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I really wish I could claim the glory of that pun in the subheading, but unfortunately cannot, but it should be enough to convince you to attend the biggest ever Craft Fair in the Guildhall in L'Derry. Guildhall Square will welcome the very best artisan traders, offering visitors a friendly shopping experience with a wide selection of speciality foods ranging from fresh fruit and vegetables to homemade jams and preserves, artisan breads, cakes, sweets and treats plus handmade crafted products. Of course, this being L'Derry, former European Capital of Culture, this is far from the only Christmas event on offer. You could immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere by completing the enchanting Wonder Windows Trail. Meet the life-sized majestic polar creature, Bjorn the Bear, along with his Arctic Explorer who'll visit the city as part of our beautiful Winterland Market with a craft beer, artisan food & live music. Celebrate the season to be jolly with the city's Mayor at his free and atmospheric winter fairytale, Lost in Frost, which takes place in both Derry and Strabane, or dance your socks off at the Mayor's Christmas Tea Dance. Derry & Strabane promise that there really is something for everyone in their Christmas Programme. Go to both derrystrabane.com and visitderry.com for more information.

A Mid-Winter Tale

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A Celtic themed celebration of the arrival of Mid-Winter and the Winter Solstice - the shortest and darkest day of the year. "Darkness has descended and the people are gathered to see the Holly King fight the Oak King. If the Oak King defeats the Holly King, darkness will end and light will return for the year." Taking place at Navan Centre & Fort – one of Ireland's most famous and important archaeological sites, the legendary Emain Macha – on Friday 15 December, visitors are invited to enjoy some traditional fayre at this most unusual Christmas event. Navan Centre & Fort is a place where myth and reality meet. Legends say that Macha, the ancient goddess of war and fertility, scored the earth with her brooch pin and traced the famous outline of this sacred stronghold of the hero Cu Chulainn, home of the famous Red Branch Knights and Ulster Cycle of tales. Go to visitarmagh.com for more information and to book.

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