They fill cities and towns with Christmas magic, featuring colourful wooden stalls, glimmering lights, fantastic decorations, the spicy aroma of glühwein, or mulled wine, and whet citizen’s appetites for feasting and being merry. And they get bigger and better every year in Ukraine with more and more Christmas markets opening across the country. Let’s take a walk around some of them...
Of course, when it comes to Christmas markets, the capital of Ukraine offers plum picking. This year the Christmas market to be set up in Kyiv’s centre is ‘gonna be’ (as officials promise) nothing short of a fabulous event that will rival (well, that remains to be seen) seasonal fairs in other parts Europe.
The event will take in two parts of the centre. In the first, at least 100 vendor booths will encircle the centre. Designed in Ukrainian style, they will spread along Kyiv’s main drag, Khreshchatyk Street, from Maidan Nezalezhnosti, to Besarabska Square, up Shevchenko Boulevard (the promenade part), take in Opera House Square, as well as Sophiivska, Mykhailivska and Trinity squares (Olimpiysky Stadium). The market will open from 14 December to 20 January.
Apart from numerous souvenir kiosks selling millions of Christmas must-haves, each separate market will include huts housing both the traditional Ukrainian Did Moroz (Grandfather Frost) and his more Western rival Santa Claus – just a knock at the door and you’ll be face-to-face with the big guns of the festive season in Ukraine! Anyone interested will be able to take part in a variety of Ukrainian folk art and craft master-classes, as well as purchase handmade caramel and other marvellous sweets. More holiday specialties are promised like a skating rink, ice run and ice labyrinth to be built near the Olympic Stadium on Trinity Square. A little zoo and traditional merry-go-round will definitely add to the festive mood of children and adults.
The second Kyiv Christmas market has been dubbed the Gift Arch and will unfold from 14 December to 14 January right under the People’s Friendship Arch (overlooking European Square). Some 80 vendor booths will offer Christmas decorations, ornaments, souvenirs, and handmade gifts, and organisers say the whole affair will take on a very European look. For example, the Gift Arch will welcome one and all to take part in a Christmas Food Festival and try delicacies from across the continent and across the Atlantic – French brioche, English prediction-pie, Swedish gingerbread men, Danish aebleskiver, and American Santa-burger. Those greedy for sweets will no doubt enjoy Spanish doughnuts, Belgian chocolates, German marzipan stollen, Italian cannolli and Viennese strudel.
To wash the food down and get you warmed up, guests are offered some Scandinavian glogg and Austrian gluhwein, two variants of mulled wine. And all this fare is quite affordable – a one-dish course costs 5 hryvnias, while a combination ticket will set you back 50 hryvnias. Some food and drink will be provided free of charge, as organisers reveal, “We are now negotiating with our suppliers on that matter.”
After feasting you can burn off those accumulated calories on a large 500 square metre skating rink accommodating 150 people at once. The rink will stay open around the clock and at night will offer spectacular fire shows and other performances. The Christmas market festivities will also include music concerts, pig races, showmen festivals, and master-classes with stilt-walkers, circus actors, and clowns entertaining attendees all day. To top it off, these are the headquarters of the guy organisers have tagged as the “authentic” Santa Claus, who, along with his flying reindeer, can be found – so children are promised an unforgettable meeting with the man in the red suit.
Ukraine is readying itself for celebrating Christmas and New Year holidays in style. So eat, drink and be merry compliments of the season.
If you are away from the capital, you needn’t fear missing your festive fix. Lviv’s Christmas Festival will open from 10 December and run to 15 January, in the central squares of the city. Traditional drinks and meals as well as New Year gifts of all kinds will be available.
On 25 December, Odesa will start its European-style Christmas market featuring 20 wooden huts erected in the very heart of the city – the legendary Deribasivska Street – selling Ukrainian souvenirs, hot spicy beer, roasted chestnuts and many other things.
Vinnitsa’s exhibition Christmas Gift 2013 will run from 11 to 14 December, offering a wide range of different products, from Christmas tree ornaments to clothes and cosmetics.
Chernivtsi will see the opening of the annual Christmas fair on Soborna Square on 15 December. The closing day is 20 January.
by Anna Azarova