This week Hannah’s over the moon about getting Ian Brown’s autograph (thanks to Uncle Sean) and then she goes all festive on us, thinking about Christmas and loving the Christmas Markets…

A little bit of true Mancunia in Ireland

So all you Mancunians …where is one of the most unlikely places to be chatting to mega Manc Ian Brown and talking about Forever Manchester?

Well that might just be Castlebar, County Mayo on the West Coast of Ireland! The Royal Theatre, Castlebar, to be precise.

Castlebar, County Mayo

However that is exactly where my beloved Uncle Sean found himself last week.

What’s that you say? Unlikely ? I should think so.

A taste of Pure Manchester came to County Mayo that night and Sean was there to taste it all – including a pre show chat with the great man himself when Forever Manchester and all it stands for was discussed and reflected upon.

Thanks Sean for spreading the word, being a True Mancunian and Keeping the Faith!

Perhaps a blog on Northern Soul and all its pure joy and influences in our City coming soon just for you, just as a little thank you for snaffling me his autograph?!   Or the influence that Irish immigration had on shaping communities in Greater Manchester. Just a few tasters of my blogs to come in 2010…

Dreaming of a Mancunian Christmas

In the meantime, I thought I’d share my Mancunian Christmas so far with all of you.

This Christmas you can’t leave the house without encountering the ghost of Christmas Past, Present and Christmas Yet to Come. Dickens manages to jump out at you from every shop, street corner and television advert.

So, what does Christmas mean to me?

It has always been a family tradition to watch Ronald Neame’s musical adaptation of the Dickensian classic. Year after year, our family would settle down to watch Salfordian actor Albert Finney bring Ebenezer Scrooge to life, whilst squabbling over who gets the best chocolates from the tin of ‘Quality Street’. Forgive me for namedropping, but a fond memory of my childhood is sitting in the back of a car, whilst one of Salford’s finest exports; Finney, sang song after song from his hit films ‘Annie’ and ‘Scrooge’. I remember clearly that Albert Finney was visiting Manchester suburb Davyhulme, following the death of his mother, and upon request, sang ‘Thank You Very Much to me, a song which was nominated for an Oscar in 1971. It is because of this annual tradition that I went to see Disney’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ in 3D at The Printworks, as soon as I could. The film certainly did not disappoint. The snow scenes in particular were phenomenal in my opinion, and I would describe the film as nothing short of spectacular. A definite ‘must-see’ this Christmas!

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol

For me, Christmas is the best time of year. But with even Nigella Lawson advising us to be more stingy with the turkey and avoid the lure of the biggest one in the shop, is the season changing?  It’s doubtful. Our interest has moved from the largest turkey to the biggest present under the tree. Practically every bus stop in Greater Manchester is advertising the latest ‘must-have’ gadget, every shop window is adorned with baubles and exotic displays and every street corner in central Manchester is clothed in twinkling lights. This is not to say that I agree with Scrooge’s ‘Bah Humbug!’ approach to the festive season. In fact, quite the opposite…One of my most favourite Mancunian traditions is to visit the annual Christmas Markets.

The markets offer a unique European experience and take place in some of Manchester’s most picturesque areas…The enormous L.E.D. Father Christmas and ‘Merry Christmas Manchester sign’ that looms over Albert Square perches proudly on the beautiful Manchester Town Hall, for example.  Firmly established as a festive favourite, Manchester’s Christmas Markets are considered to be among the very best in Britain and Europe. And I would not disagree for a second! The sensuous sights, sounds and aromas invade the senses, and the twinkling chalets offer the perfect setting for a quick de-stress after a busy day in the office, or a special festive family day out.

Manchester's Christmas Markets in Albert Square

As I approached the Christmas Markets from St. Peter’s Square, I was hit with instant festive joy! The aromas of sweet cinnamon, mulled wine, spiced cider, Spanish paella and German bratwurst sausages filled the air. The wonderful sounds of a street choir at the foot of the Town Hall, singing carols fondly compares with a Dickensian Victorian Christmas. The suckling pig and gingerbread houses harp back to simple and wholesome Christmas’ gone by. Is this why without fail we bring Dickens and his characters, back to life year after year for the festive season? Questions aside, it is undeniable that the Christmas Markets have now become an intrinsic part of a Mancunian Christmas. The success of the Christmas Markets can be seen by the fact that the number of wonderful stalls on offer are extending year after year, and the German Markets can now be enjoyed at Albert Square, St Ann’s Square, Exchange Street, New Cathedral Street and Brazennose Street.

But, Christmas is also a time for reflection and whilst many of us regard the festive season as a time of merriment and good cheer, for some people in Manchester, Christmas is a bleak and lonely time. You can help these people…why not treat yourself to a piece of Forever Manchester fashion, inspired by proud Mancunians? That way you can own an exclusive piece of clothing, whilst helping local communities and people who may find Christmas a little difficult.

 So…that’s all from me. Enjoy your Christmas shopping and don’t eat too many mince pies!

 Love and Christmas wishes to Mancunians everywhere, especially those in County Mayo!

 Have a wonderful Christmas and an even better 2010,

 Hannah.

My Christmas Market discovery of 2009 is the goulash/shashlik stand in Albert Square where you can get Pork, Chicken or Mushrooms with spiced potatoes.  Like all the Christmas Market fayre it seems a little expensive for fast food, but the portions are very filling and extremely tasty.  I like the Pork Shashlik best.  The guy demonstrating the garlic-grating solution in Albert Square is worth a look too. 

Enjoy!

Chris

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