Halloween Costumes and Masks

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The Emergence Of Christmas Markets

Some of my most vivid Christmas memories date back to the occasions when I’ve visited the Christmas markets in Germany. I was never lucky enough to get to one of the major famous occasions like the events in Cologne, Munich or Stuttgart. Also I was never lucky enough to visit Nuremberg during Christmas, where they say the Christmas market is awesome. But I did get to go to some of the regional markets in Northern Germany and they were always very enjoyable. Cold December nights, warmed by a glass or two of Gluhwein and the smell of roasting almonds, against the background of thousands of Christmas lights illuminating the stalls in the market squares, was a pleasant assault on the senses that I can thoroughly recommend.

Christmas markets are also popular in warmer countries and in Spain there are events that can be enjoyed as part of a winter holiday in places like Palma, Mallorca and towns across the Canary Islands in Lanzarote, Tenerife and Gran Canaria.

It is quite tircky to predict cultural trends accurately and with confidence, but the use of reliable statistics and evidence of past changes is a good way to make forecasts that are more likely to come true. Customs and traditions in the UK are changing but which will find a regular place and which will start to disappear?

The changing way of life in the UK is influenced by a number of factors, which include less of a reliance on religious festivals, an increased love of technology and perhaps an unfortunate habit of adopting the customs of the USA, without really questioning why. We already have our school leavers looking to their end of school “proms” and hiring stretched limos to transport groups of friends to this form of “passing out” party. Actually these are great occasions as they signify the end and start of important stages of children growing up. The point in time when they leave the protection of the normal school system and head off into the wider world of further education or even full-time employment perhaps.

We also seem to have discovered a passion for Halloween, now suggested as being one of the biggest periods of the year for retail organisations; not as big as Christmas of course, but a close runner alongside Easter and Valentines Day. What will the Brits be adopting from the US next, Thanksgiving perhaps? Perhaps not as the origins of this celebration on the fourth Thursday of October are a form of harvest festival and we already have one of those that varies its date according to fall of the full moon in September. But stranger things have happened and if the attraction of all things Stateside continues, we may see a shift away from the current church festival to the more family based Thanksgiving-type event.

Fireworks at New Year are another tradition that has rapidly found it’s way onto the British social calendar. Not too many years ago a typical New Years Eve party consisted of a few drinks, in fancy dress maybe, all rounded off with a couple of verses of Auld Lang Syne. Now no New Year party is complete with a rousing firework display that celebrates the start of the next year. This firework tradition has been a regular feature of New Year in most European countries for avery long time. An example is the German Sylvester tradition. Origins are not well defined but a connection with Pope Sylvester is reported.

This pattern that seems to be fueling our increased interest in the festivals and celebrations that are extremely popular abroad, could go even further as we become increasingly “internationalised”. Who knows which celebrations that have not yet found their feet in the UK, will become regular events in the future. These might include the huge carnival traditions that see big street parades and costume celebrations in places like Rio de Janiero, Venice and most large towns across Spain. We already have the Notting Hill carnival in London, but most other carnivals in the UK seem still to be based on more traditional English forms.

Back to Christmas Markets, which are very popular in Spain and Germany and just starting to find a place in the squares and streets of a locations in the UK. There are now flourishing Christmas Markets in various towns across the country including the Edinburgh event in the Princes Street Gardens, London’s South Bank Market, Lincoln’s thriving Christmas Market and Birmingham’s German Christmas Market which gows in size every year.

It will be no surprise to see Christmas Markets popping up in most towns and cities across the country as people seem more than happy to attend cultural events that usefully merge celebration with the opportunity to shop. It’s that odd British affinity with anything “shopping” at the moment but one that can safely be used to predict future trends. But for now a cheap flight to Tenerife will allow you to enjoy a traditional Christmas market, without the cold temperatures and threat of rain that seems to accompany a December in Britain.
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Think about taking a cheap flight to Tenerife and enjoy the best of Christmas market atmospheres with the added attraction of sunny weather.

Halloween trick-or-treating in Gregory Gardens, Pleasant Hill, CA USA

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