Christmas markets and fairs all over the country are brimming with festive delights, writes Lucinda O'Sullivan
It's that time of year again – the wonderful season of Christmas. And each year more and more Christmas markets, fairs, fun and entertainment are springing up. We are an indefatigable people!
However, it is a very important time for traders of all sorts including those working in the arts and crafts sector. You will also benefit by having a totally individualistic present rather than something that is mass-produced.
The Christmas Fair at Dublin's Docklands returns for its eighth year to George's Dock in the IFSC with over 80 market traders selling gifts, seasonal food and stocking fillers. Here they have the beautifully restored 'Galloping Horses' carousel to capture the imagination of adult and child alike. www.ddda.ie
The Royal Hospital Kilmainham has Fossett's Christmas Circus this year which kicks off on Wednesday and runs until December 27. www.fossettscircus.com
Christ Church Cathedral, in the historic heart of Dublin city has its great Christmas Market in the amazing crypts. It runs each Saturday up to Christmas from 11am to 5pm with gifts such as handmade soaps, jewellery, food and preserves. Also, on December 15, it will feature crafts from Project 51. Santa Claus will be there and you can book a visit to him through the gift shop on arrival or by telephone on (01) 6778099. The Santa visit costs €6 and includes a gift. www.christchurchdublin.ie
Another interesting venue is the Christmas Fair at the National Print Museum (Old Garrison Chapel of Beggars Bush Barracks), which transforms into a winter wonderland with market stalls retailing unusual and affordable gifts. Items include jewellery, home accessories, cards, letterpress posters and books. Families can enjoy self-guided arts and craft activities and try their hands at printing a Christmas poster using traditional letterpress methods. The Gutenberg cafe will be open for the duration, serving seasonal favourites. This runs from December 6 to 9. On Thursday it runs from 4pm–8pm and includes carol singing. Friday to Sunday, it runs from 11am-4pm. Tel: (01) 6603770 or firstname.lastname@example.org
At the magnificent Farmleigh estate in the Phoenix Park, its Christmas Food Market will run every Saturday and Sunday up to December 23. There is lots to entertain the little ones, from Rudolf & The Ice Queen with the Custard Pie Puppet Company, to storytelling for children with Jack Lynch in the Old Kitchen, carol singing in the ballroom with Il Cora Italiano and barbershop melodies outdoors with the Mellowchords. www.farmleigh.ie
Christmas celebrations kicked off yesterday in Dun Laoghaire with the arrival of Santa to his 6,000-sq ft Arctic Kingdom on the top floor of Dun Laoghaire shopping centre. Children can follow in the footsteps of Ernest Shackleton when they embark on a special adventure from the South Pole to the North Pole, helping the lost Mr Elf along the way, before visiting Santa himself. A visit to Santa with gift and photo costs €10.
In the Dun Laoghaire Harbour area, where there is the 2012 Shackleton exhibition in the Harbour Terminal building, there will also be a Christmas Market with 40 arts, craft and food market stalls. Local retailers will also be getting into the Christmas spirit by offering special discounts in stores around the town.
Outside St Michael's Church, visitors can view the beautiful nativity scene with a life-size crib and real live donkeys and goats – sorry, Your Holiness! Lots of other events including fireworks and a spectacular 60-metre ice slide. www.dunlaoghaire.ie
On the other side of the county, on Saturday, December 8, Fingal Women in Business Network is holding a Christmas Fair in the visitors' centre at Malahide Castle. It runs from 12pm to 5pm where exhibitors will be showcasing a variety of ideas and wares plus family entertainment. Email: email@example.com
Also in Malahide in the parish hall of St Sylvester's Church, there is a Christmas Fair on Sunday, December 9, from 10.30am to 5pm, with homemade jams, chutneys, cakes, fruit and vegetables, good as new clothes. www.malahideparish.ie
Moving south to Wicklow, Wicklow town has embraced a Victorian Christmas theme. Victorian street lamps, traditional garlands, life-sized toy soldiers, ballerinas and gingerbread men add to the atmosphere. Santa is in the historic Wicklow Gaol! Visits cost €12 per child with up to two adults. www.wicklowshistoricgaol.com
In Carlow today, at the Potato Market, there is A Taste of Carlow Christmas from 12 noon to 5pm where you can taste the produce of many artisan food producers, as well as choose gifts from original handcrafts including woodturning, pottery, ironwork and textiles. www.carlow.ie
On Tullow Street in Carlow there is also a Christmas pop-up shop from today until December 13 featuring local artisan food and crafts people. www.carlow-ceb.com
Huntington Castle at Clonegal has a Christmas Fair this Saturday from 12 to 6pm (www.huntingtoncastle.com) whilst the Borris House Christmas fair takes place on December 14 and 15. www.borrishouse.com
Kilkenny has always been renowned for its crafts. The fabulous Kilkenny Design Centre is a great place to shop and eat, in what were grain stores, originally built in the 1760s. This year's Christmas Market on the Parade has the unrivalled backdrop of the magnificent Anglo-Norman Kilkenny Castle. With a myriad traders selling gifts, stocking fillers, and local seasonal food, in the festive atmosphere of beautifully decorated log cabins, it will be hard not to enjoy yourself. Kilkenny Gospel Choir will perform Christmas favourites and also the fantastic Kilkenny Brass Band will be belting it out. Look out too for Paws Animal Rescue. www.kilkennychristmasmarket.com
Down at magnificent Mount Juliet in Thomastown, check out the fabulous Christmas Village with lots of wonderful gifts and food products including the Tastes of Mount Juliet stall. Executive chef Cormac Rowe will be on hand to give cookery demonstrations. Look out too for the very unusual decorations and gifts from Jane's Christmas Shop. The Christmas Village and Santa Train runs from December 8 until December 23. Overnight packages also available. www.mountjuliet.ie
Waterford's Winterval market takes over the medieval heart of the city with 60 traditional log cabins offering a range of food, crafts, wooden traditional toys and decorations. It runs to December 23. www.winterval.ie
Cork's Grand Parade and Bishop Lucey Park will for the fifth year be the scene of Christmas festivities. This year's Christmas market features a full-size vintage carousel and helter skelter, a Gluhwein bar and the return of an outdoor stage. Choirs and groups will be performing and collecting for local charities. It kicked off on Friday last and is in full swing today. After that, the market runs from December 6 to Sunday December 9, and picks up again on Thursday, December 13 right up December 23.
Bishop Lucey Park is illuminated in red and gold in a magical world inspired by the Nutcracker and it is open for the next three weekends, from Friday to Sunday, up to December 23. www.corkcity.ie
Look out too for other Cork happenings such as Red Riding Hood at the Everyman Palace Theatre starting on Saturday and running until January 6. www.everymanpalace.com
Also, West End star Michael Ball will join the Cork Youth Orchestra for two special concerts in City Hall on Saturday and Sunday, December 8 and 9. Tickets €40. www.ticketmaster.ie
The Green Barn Lifestyle Store on the N25 between Youghal and Killeagh is given over to Christmas decorations and gifts, different and inexpensive. www.greenbarn.ie
Killarney is always a great town for festivities and fun. The outdoor markets run from December 14 to 16, and December 21 to 23, showcasing a wide selection of handmade craft and food. These range from ceramics, stained glass, candles and jewellery, to organic cheese, fudge, and preserves.
Galway's Continental Christmas Market is in its third year with Irish and European traders transforming Eyre Square into a winter wonderland until December 22. There is also a strong charity presence in this year's market, including Santa's Grotto which will again be run by local charities and priced at €8 per child. A photo with Santa is €6. The market is open 12pm to 8pm Monday to Wednesday, and 10am to 10pm Thursday to Sunday. So think Gluhwein, pretzels, Polish sausages and Irish chocolates, gifts and preserves – and don't get lost in the Bavarian beer tent! www.galwaychristmasmarket.ie
On a smaller scale, Lackagh National School, in Turloughmore, Co Galway, is having a Christmas Craft and Cake Fair with children's handmade decorations, music by the school choir, festive refreshments, and magical reindeer food for Rudolph. Proceeds to the school music fund.
At the Bee Park Centre, Manorhamilton, the North Leitrim Women's Centre is holding its Christmas Market fundraiser today from 12pm to 4pm. Plenty of chocolates, wines, honey, pottery et al. www.northleitrimwomens centre.ie
Also in Co Leitrim, there is a Christmas Craft Market at the Bush Hotel, Carrick-on-Shannon, on December 9 from 12pm to 5pm.
At the fabulous Milk Market in Limerick, the Christmas buzz will be in full swing. It's one of the most beautiful market venues in the country with its amazing canopy roofing. Here you will find 60 stalls and shops abounding with seasonal fare from artisan foods to crafts and decorations. Choirs singing carols and songs will feature at different times. The market is open Fridays to Sundays up to December 13 when it then runs every day up to Christmas Eve. www.milkmarketlimerick.ie
Also in Limerick, in another spectacular location, there is a Family Christmas Fair at the Hunt Museum on Saturday and Sunday December 15 and 16 when over 35 craftspeople will be presenting their work. Festively decorated stalls will offer a variety of handcrafted goods, decorations and culinary delights, plus live music, storytelling sessions, face painting, and arts and crafts workshops. www.huntmuseum.com
Winterfest in Newcastle West takes place from December 3 to 9 and includes a host of family-focused events. Food will play a major role, and on Saturday, December 8, the market at the Red Door will be complemented by the first food and crafts market in the forecourt of Desmond Banqueting Hall and Castle.
The next day, Sunday, December 9, local restaurants will combine with Limerick Strand Hotel, Allo's from Listowel and the White Sage, Adare to create the Red Door pop-up restaurant. Bite-sized portions will be the order of the day with starters and desserts for €3 and mains at €5. www.facebook.com/winterfestinnewcastlewest
Finally, at the Lodge at Doonbeg, Co Clare, its Christmas Market will kick off on Friday with a festive fireworks display and the market will continue until Sunday, December 9. www.doonbeglodge.com
Merry Christmas shopping and lots of kisses under the mistletoe!