BILLY MORRELL celebrates the warm glow of cultural diversity for the historic city’s Xmas market 10th anniversary
As clichéd as it sounds, strolling through Chester this time of year feels almost like something out of a movie. The four main streets alit by overhead fairy lights, window displays of Santa and the season’s various characters, all while busy shoppers, locals and tourists alike, take in the city’s Christmas costume with a seasonal latte. At the heart of the city’s festivities lies the Christmas Markets at Town Hall Square, this year celebrating its 10th anniversary.
Quaint in comparison to its Liverpool and Manchester counterparts, the markets still provide more than enough festive cheer to get you through the season. Depending on where you’re stood, you might hear an acoustic rendition of the Cure’s ‘Friday I’m In Love’ coming from the makeshift Christmas Gin & Rum Bar. Elsewhere, the individual vendors play the quintessential Christmas voices from their speakers. Your Michael Bublé’s, Mariah Carey’s, and even the odd Eartha Kitt.
A symphony of smells
But as you wander between the chalet-themed stalls, it’s not just the sounds that pull you in. Impossible to ignore, your nose begins to be drawn to the symphony of smells. Whether it’s the smell of korma coming from Eat Indian, or fresh focaccia from Boulangerie Cecil, there truly feels like something from all around the world. The food, however, is just the beginning of the trip you take.
Adem Yilmaz has been in the UK for less than three years, and opened up Pars Kahve, a Turkish kitchen and Bazaar on Watergate Row, with his wife, Holly, last August. This year is their first with a stall at the markets.
Inside is a vibrant display of unique handknits in all kinds of colours and patterns. On the wall is everything from bubble towels to Christmas stockings, as well as Turkish coffee and leather products on the table in front.
Adem says: “What we sell is mainly handmade, recycled, and environment friendly. Our main concept is offering people handmade products to introduce our culture.”
Turkish Xmas Turkey!
Pars Khave isn’t the only store offering an insight into other cultures. Stalls like Garlix and More, which offer traditional Spanish Garlic Grater Plates, among other bright ceramics, represent other corners of the globe and their unique pieces of daily life.
Adem believes in immersing and introducing ourselves to things outside of our usual, telling me: “Diversity should always be part of our living space. We should always be open to other cultures. It’s an important part in seeing things a different way. It opens our mind up a lot.”
But his hope for improved cultural awareness does not hinder his affinity for how we celebrate the holiday. “I quite like Christmas in the European culture! We don’t really celebrate Christmas [in Turkey]. To us, Christmas doesn’t have any meaning. But here, I think it’s a lovely way of celebrating the festive season with friends and family. It’s a lovely way of meeting with the people we don’t really see every day.”
Despite the freezing December cold that forces many to wrap up or stay inside with the heating on, Adem isn’t one to hibernate. Even in the cold, his warm personality makes you forget the temperature. Not just with customers, but anyone interested in conversation. His kindness lets him be willing to share and help others learn more about himself and what he offers. It is clear that Adem values the markets for what they bring to the season and people’s spirits.
When asked why people should visit, he said: “I think [the Christmas Markets] are lovely. I’ve liked it every time I’ve been here. But especially being inside and a part of it, it puts a different level of happiness for myself. People should visit because it keeps you up, walking. Seeing what all these people offer you. It’s a good way of seeing how people work hard, even in the cold weather, to make you a little bit happy.”
“I think it’s a perfect way of making people get together. Meeting up. Talking. Even with someone you’ve never seen before.”
The Chester Christmas Markets are open until 21st December.
Written by Billy Morrell