Christmas comes but once a year, but by God looking around the magnificently lit up streets of London, one cannot help but wish it lasted the entire winter season. Particularly when one is faced with the doom and gloom of January.
That is why exploring the Christmas scene in London is such a culturally fulfilling experience. There are many winter festivals dotted around the capital, featuring ice skating rinks, christmas tress, hot chocolate with marshmallows, and of course the opportunity to pick up Christmas gifts.
I was eager to explore the Southbank Centre Christmas Market as it was in such a prime location overlooking the Thames and near the London Eye. But what makes the location so enthralling is as a large collection of stalls were on the main pathway, visitors that were perhaps heading elsewhere found themselves getting distracted by all the goodies these stalls had to offer. So much exciting items were being presented to passers-by from decorative baubles to keyrings. We were persuaded to try out hand warmers, placed in a microwave for a short time before being removed and offering much needed heat to our cold selves.
And the wide range of food outlets was formidable. There was virtually every cuisine represented. One could gorge on tasty burgers, freshly cooked pizza, various curries, spuds and more! The item that stood out to me was the ‘Nutella Pizza’. Yes you heard that right! At the pizza stand they were offering the option to have a pizza covered in Nutella spread. It was as delicious as you would expect. This fusion between a snack and meal favourite is perhaps one of the best examples of cultural blending that showcases the best of everywhere. And looking around it was nice to see the visitors exploring all the different places, in that it didn’t seem that one stall had the lion’s share of customers leaving the others empty.
This market had a very European feel, the highly popular German Christmas Markets coming to mind when comparing the South Bank.
And of course it would be wrong to forget the great Hyde Park Winter Wonderland always teeming with people excited to visit the attractions, especially the gigantic roller-coasters.
The best part of all these festivities is the fact that anyone can experience and appreciate the merriment. One does not need to celebrate Christmas or even follow any religion at all to be a part of the goodwill and warmth these attractions afford. Everyone is practically freezing so slurping on some hot chocolate can provide some much needed respite. The thing I do find a bit peculiar is the obsession with ice-skating. Normally when you feel cold you attempt to alleviate that by having a hot drink or turning up the heating. Equally when it’s hot, grab an ice lolly and turn on the fan. So other than the scenic spectacle why anyone would voluntarily enter an ice-filled rink is beyond me.
I guess either way it’s cooooold outside….