A Guide To Christmas Markets And Santa's Grottos During Covid-19

Most are cancelled, but some activities are still going ahead.

Christmas isn’t cancelled this year, but many of the UK’s Christmas markets are.

As it stands, most of the UK’s biggest Christmas markets have decided they will not be going ahead this year due to the health threat from Covid-19.

Many organisers were concerned about how they’d keep stall holders and members of the public safe when such markets attract hundreds of thousands of people from across the UK – and even further afield.

Some markets are going virtual this year instead, with stallholders setting up online shops so people can support their businesses and buy festive, handmade gifts.

Santa’s Grottos will also look a little different depending on where in the UK you are based and how many Covid cases there are. Here’s what you need to know.

martin-dm via Getty Images

What’s the deal with Christmas markets?

Bath Christmas Market

This year’s event has been cancelled because of Covid-19. However there’s still an opportunity to buy goodies from the stall holders – via its virtual Christmas market.

There will also be some festive events happening in Bath in the run-up to Christmas, including music and entertainment, street stalls and artisan food.

Belfast Continental Market

The official Facebook page for the Christmas market has confirmed it won’t be going ahead for the first time in 15 years due to the current health crisis.

Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas market

The event has been cancelled because of Covid-19. Kurt Stroscher, Frankfurt City Council’s director of festivals and events, said the decision was made “with a very heavy heart”.

“We have carefully explored all possible options, because of its importance to the public, traders and local economy but the health and safety of visitors had to be our top priority,” he said. “Christmas markets like this are a place for socialising and ‘cosy closeness’, which couldn’t be offered with social distancing and hygiene rules introduced to help protect people from Covid-19.”

Cardiff Christmas Market

This market is still going ahead from November 12 to December 23 – although this is subject to change based on any Covid-19 relevant rules or guidelines in place at the time.

It will run along St John Street, Working Street, the Hayes, Hills Street and Trinity Street. There will be an “exciting and eclectic mix” of both new and returning exhibitors, organisers promise, with a focus on handmade goods.

Edinburgh Christmas Market

The market has been cancelled due to Covid. However there are plans for a virtual Christmas event which will launch in November. More details will be shared soon.

Leeds Christkindelmarkt

The organisers of the Leeds German Christmas market on Millennium Square have confirmed the event will not take place this year in the interests of public safety.

The council is working with partners locally to look at alternative ways to celebrate the festive season safely in Leeds, in line with social distancing and the latest government guidance around events and social gatherings.

Lincoln Christmas Market

This year’s market has been cancelled, along with the city centre’s Christmas lights switch-on event. Simon Colburn, assistant director for health and environmental services at City of Lincoln Council, said: “Currently, we are in discussions to bring smaller, alternative events to the city, to ensure the Christmas spirit remains alive, and to help the local economy during the festive period.”

Manchester Christmas Markets

It has not yet been confirmed whether Manchester’s markets will go ahead this year – it’s under review by the local council. HuffPost UK will update this article when we hear more.

Southbank Winter Market

The riverside market in London is still going ahead and will be open from November 5 until December 27. Festive chalets and seasonal pop-ups will be dotted along the Queen’s Walk, and visitors can expect some of the usual experience: festive food, warming drinks, twinkling lights, seasonal goodies on sale, as well as the chance to dine in private igloos looking over the London skyline.

If you do attend a market, it’s important to avoid the three Cs in order to stay safe. These are: closed spaces, crowded places, and close contact with others.

Avoid peak times to steer clear of crowds and wear a mask to protect yourself and those around you in areas where social distancing isn’t easy. Take hand sanitiser, and, if you are going to be eating, use it before and after tucking in.

What about Santa’s grottos?

With Covid-19 restrictions varying across the UK, it’s best to look at your local shopping centre or Christmas market website to find out more about your nearest Santa’s grotto.

It’s likely there’ll be more virtual Santa’s grottos on offer this year. The online experience, Santa’s Grotto Live, allows children tell Santa, via a personalised HD video experience, what’s on their Christmas lists this year – Father Christmas will appear live from his home in Lapland and be on hand for individual chats with children and their families, according to the Manchester Evening News.

There are also some in-person grottos still taking place. London entertainment company Ministry of Fun has come up with a few measures to make the experience safer for all including a festive face mask for Santa (red velvet with a white trim, of course), a socially distanced grotto so kids stay 2m away from Father Christmas, and a sleigh which Santa puts the presents on, and kids can then pull towards them to take their gifts off.