SHE’S been a supermarket assistant in Corrie and contestant on Big Brother but Sherrie Hewson’s latest role is somewhat more exotic - as a supernatural jinn in the Opera House pantomime Aladdin. And the Loose Women panellist will be putting her wish-granting powers into practise today, at 12.30pm in St Ann’s Square, when she cuts the ribbon on Manchester Christmas Markets: helping Councillor Pat Kearney to usher in the biggest and longest run yet for its nineteenth edition. 

There’s something for everyone at the Christmas Markets

With 41 days trading (42 in Albert Square), this year will welcome back stalls from every corner of Europe - with the addition of traders from across the globe, inspired by the ‘street food revolution’. Organised by Manchester City Council, the event is now the biggest of its kind in Europe (even usurping Germany) and is regularly named one of the best.

Nine million people visited last year, generating millions for the local economy, and this year is set to welcome more yet. 

With almost 350 stalls over ten different sites, market-goers can expect traditional favourites - from bratwurst and hog roasts to crepes and macaroons - to paella, flammkuchen and Piccola Eatlia’s stone-baked pizzas.

.The market hub in Albert Square

Northern Soul will bring their grilled cheesy wares to Albert Square for the first time, along with their ‘hard shakes, with an adult twist’ (we assume that’s a tipple). And one of last year’s favourites, The Great Northern Pie Company, will return to purvey their gourmet pies - alongside fellow icon The Big and Barrel pork sandwich emporium, in Albert Square. 

Traditional Indian and Pakistani dishes come courtesy of Zouk Grill and Tikka Kebab Kitchen, while Exchange Square is to become the new home of gourmet hot dog experts Street Dawg Co. George and Shelley’s Pie Shop will be offering up a artisan baked goods and a warming range of mulled gin over in Cathedral Gardens - which is also hosting its first ice rink. The rink, open now, will be joined by a family-friendly fun fair from today; including Ferris Wheel, carousel, Helter Skelter and tea cup ride. 

As well as food, there’ll also be the usual jewellery, ceramics, handmade toys, puppets, clocks and glassware. A charitable card shop is popping up until 14 December - and of course Manchester Christmas Market coffee and Gluhwein mugs will be making a reappearance. All will be presided over by the familiar ‘tweet-happy’ six-tonne giant Santa, who has taken up his usual spot above Albert Square and can be, er, contacted @MCRsanta or joining in the conversation at #MCRCHRISTMAS. 

Colourful wares (photo credit: Mark Waugh)Colourful wares (photo credit: Mark Waugh)

Other upcoming festive happenings include a three metre-high giant, illuminated polar bear designed by Lazerian (of B.EAT Street’s T-Rex), which will be taking up residence at New Bailey. With a Facebook campaign underway to name the Arctic visitor, it will be christened in a launch ceremony on 24 November complete with food stalls, carol singing and a Sky Ride. Also in Salford, the Lowry Outlet celebrates its Christmas launch event this weekend. Visitors can enjoy a free glass of fizz and festive nibbles, as well as an enchanted trail of wooden nutcrackers and live music.   

The markets, however, are undeniably Manchester’s crowning glory: a UK first, it’s hard to believe they grew from a single site in St Ann’s Square in 1999. 

Cllr Pat Karney, Manchester City Council’s Christmas spokesperson, said: “It really is the most wonderful time of the year and my Christmas dreams have come true now the markets are open for longer than ever before. I’d have them open from September if I had my way - I love the transformation of the city during the Christmas Market season, when the dark nights are bathed in a warm festive glow. 

“There’s something for everyone at the Christmas Markets, a truly family-friendly attraction, and at Festive Cathedral Gardens, we have achieved our hopes of bringing an ice rink to the family zone for the first time.

“More than anything I enjoy seeing generations of people all soaking up the atmosphere, so get your loved ones together and enjoy the thousands of delicious treats the markets have to offer.” 

The Christmas Markets run from 10 November to 20 December. Full listings here

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