Now we’re into the festive month of December, it is hard to avoid the ubiquitous Christmas markets – they’re everywhere. Of course, the majority of people love an excuse for a wander around pretty stalls, all selling tempting goods, from fantastically fragrant soaps, through to steaming mugs of mulled wine. Perhaps you’ve travelled to one in Europe, or visited one closer to home – most cities, and many towns, in the UK offer up a seasonal market. But – have you ever thought about Christmas markets in literature? If not, why not? Allow me to explain…
In one of English literature’s most famous, and my favourite, Christmas tales, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Stave 3 contains some delightful details of what a Christmas marketplace might have looked like in Dickens’ Victorian England. Readers learn about ‘plentiful and rare’ raisins, ‘candied fruits… caked… with molten sugar…’ and the ‘… highly-decorated boxes.’ In some ways, such a description is not dissimilar to what you might see if you sauntered through a lovely Christmas market in a pretty British city today. It is not just in Dickens work that we see Christmas being written about in enduring, appealing ways, though.
In M.A. Kuzniar’s Midnight in Everwood, Marietta, the protagonist, finds herself in a picture-perfect snowy kingdom with all the genre tropes you could wish for (gingerbread houses, a sugar palace) – but with danger around every corner. Perhaps this reminds you, somewhat, of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series, and the temptations of the White Witch’s delectable Turkish Delight, and an ominous world the children are drawn into. Enid Blyton went for something much more innocent back in the day, with cosy log fires and endless amounts of joy.
At this time of the year, it is hard to avoid all the festivities. Of course, it isn’t the same for everyone – people celebrate it in different ways. But when you are looking for a seasonal read, perhaps you might dig into Dickens (if you enjoyed A Christmas Carol, maybe you should give Dickens at Christmas a go).