Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas markets in the UK

This month’s guest blog post introduces some of the UK’s Christmas markets, and is provided by Gemma Burns:

Christmas markets are traditionally thought to be a European construct, however in recent years their popularity has grown considerably in the UK, and now almost all major cities will have some form of Christmas market during December, no matter how big or small. Popular with the whole family, and visitors of all ages, many students choose to visit their local Christmas market with their friends during November and December.

If you want to get in the festive spirit and soak up some Christmas atmosphere then there is no better place to do this than at a Christmas market. Here is a list of three of the UK’s largest and most popular.

Bath Christmas Market, Bath

Every year the centre of the historical city of Bath is transformed into a winter wonderland, with over 170 Christmas market chalets lining the streets of the city. These chalets sell a range of food, drink and craft options aimed to appeal to as wide a range of visitors as possible. The city of Bath is breathtakingly beautiful and provides an iconic back drop to this famous Christmas market, which winds its way around the famous Roman baths and Bath Abbey.

What makes this Christmas market particularly inspiring is the wide range of other festive attractions that the city hosts in conjunction with its market. The market is lit up by an animated Christmas light display, and when you get tired of eating and shopping you can visit/try out the ice rink and glow-in-the-dark crazy golf course at nearby Royal Victoria Park: ideal for burning off the calories in all of those extra mince pies! With carol singers providing music and a Christmas pantomime playing at the local Theatre Royal, every aspect of a visit to Bath in December will ooze with festive joy.

Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, London

One of the most famous UK Christmas markets is the Winter Wonderland market in Hyde Park, London. Offering over 200 Bavarian-style stalls lit by fairy lights, a circus, funfair, large wooden beer hall and various other attractions, there really is something for everyone when you choose to visit this iconic location. As the largest Christmas market and specialist event in the UK, the Winter Wonderland can get very crowded, but with so much to see and do, there’s always something to appeal to everyone.

It is worth noting that Christmas markets in the UK can be expensive, particularly when compared to their native European counterparts, and this is especially true of the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. Debt is a normal part of university life for the vast majority of students studying in the UK, so some students avoid places such as these in order to save money. We don’t recommend that you or your friends/fellow students visit our Christmas markets in order to do all of your Christmas shopping. However they are well worth exploring if you wish to eat some traditional European foods, enjoy a drink or two, and soak up the festive atmosphere.

Frankfurt Christmas Market, Victoria Square, Birmingham

The Frankfurt Christmas Market is held in Birmingham from the beginning of December every year, and it is the largest traditional German Christmas market in the UK, having been held in the city for 15 years. This market offers visitors the chance to enjoy a huge array of German and Austrian foods and drinks, including mulled wine, steins of beer, meats, sweets, and pastries. Visitors can also visit the Birmingham Christmas craft market, which is a part of the overall Christmas market experience, to browse and purchase an incredibly wide range of arts and handicrafts, all produced and offered for sale by local artists. Birmingham is an incredibly diverse and multicultural city, providing a wonderful snap shot into the ways in which individuals from a wide range of different cultures live and work together in the UK: if you are thinking of travelling in the country in order to enjoy a Christmas market then this is one of the best markets to pick.

If you are living in the UK this winter and looking for something to help get you into the Christmas spirit then there really is no better activity than wrapping up warm and heading to your local Christmas market. Why not go around a meal time, so that you can enjoy sampling the local festive cuisine as part of your explorations?

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

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Spending Christmas in the UK

Mince pies and crackers

This month’s guest post is by Matt Powell from Broadband Genie and describes what a traditional Christmas in the UK is like. Matt also discusses how the internet can help you stay connected to your family at this time of year.

Christmas in the UK comes with many well-loved traditions. Children open their Advent calendars (who doesn’t love getting to legitimately eat chocolate first thing in the morning?), families put up trees and decorate their houses, schools perform nativity plays and people gather in town and city centres to watch the Christmas lights being switched on.

Many children will leave out a plate of mince pies for Santa and carrots for his reindeer on Christmas Eve; it’s also traditional for their parents to eat them once the children are asleep so that in the morning it looks like Santa really has been! Many people will also attend Midnight Mass at church on Christmas Eve.

Christmas morning (the 25th December in the UK) generally begins with excited kids waking early and opening the stockings that have been filled with presents for them; the kitchen downstairs, meanwhile, will soon start to get busy as the turkey goes in the oven and people help peel potatoes and carrots.

The presents under the tree are usually shared out and opened, new toys are played with and later everybody sits down to Christmas lunch. Turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes, vegetables and gravy are the traditional items on the plate but every family has its own favourite extras that will be added too.

Afterwards there might be Christmas pudding (complete with flaming brandy), Christmas cake and, if you’re still not quite completely full, mince pies. And Christmas lunch wouldn’t be the same without everyone pulling crackers, wearing paper hats and groaning at the terrible jokes inside.

At 3pm you might find people gathered around the television watching the Queen’s Speech being broadcast and on Boxing Day (26th December) everyone takes part in yet another British tradition: eating up all of yesterday’s leftover food!

Christmas in the UK is very much about being together with family and friends and if you’re living overseas at this time of year it can be hard. Obviously, nothing is the same as actually being with your loved ones but if you are unable to cross continents to spend Christmas at home then the internet can certainly help you feel closer.

Emails are great for sharing news and writing long messages. Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or your country’s preferred social media site can be used to share photos and updates of what you’ve been doing / seeing during the Christmas break from your studies. You can also use apps like WhatsApp to send free text messages across the world in real time.

However, the best way of feeling connected to your family has to be a video call. It can make you feel much closer to people far away and it’s perfect at this time of year if your family are celebrating Christmas so you can really feel part of the festive fun. Even if you are not celebrating Christmas, a video call home at the year’s end is a great way to stay in touch.

Apple users can talk to each other via FaceTime on their iPhones and iPads. Then there’s Skype, Google Hangouts and Viber (for example) for people using other devices. And using the group call function on these services means that even if your family are spread out across the world you can all join in the conversation at the same time, with everybody talking at once. Just like being at home!

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

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When do UK universities and colleges have holidays?

This week’s blogpost is in reply to a student who has asked about holidays at UK universities.

UK universities and colleges traditionally have a break three times during the academic year. As many international students are now discovering, one of these breaks is just about to start or may have already started at your institution. For students, the December / January break is often 3 to 4 weeks in length. It takes place when two key festivals occur in the UK – Christmas and New Year. Its exact start date and the date when you are due back to resume studies will vary from one institution to another so it’s important to check this if you plan to go off travelling for the period. If you are not travelling and intend to carry on with independent study during this period, you will need to check when any key buildings such as the library and computer workstations might be closed. They may be open for restricted hours during the vacation period but most will certainly be closed for a few key festival days. Teaching and administrative staff are generally still around and in their offices for a few days after most students have left for the vacation.

There is also a holiday in March / April. This falls around the time of Easter and varies slightly from one year to another. The summer holiday is the third and longest one although for many postgraduate students there are still dissertations to be written or PhD research work to be done during this period.

There are also a range of so-called Bank Holidays in the UK. These are one-day holidays which occur on a Monday so extend the weekend. If you would like to know when these occur in 2015, look on the official UK Government website.

Regarding public transport during vacation periods, if there is a local bus service which is run specifically for students attending your institution, you may find that once a vacation period begins, a new timetable applies. National public transport (long distance coach services and train services) do not operate on Christmas Day (25th December) and have restricted services on other feast days and/or bank holidays.

The Prepare for Success team would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very happy Christmas break and a peaceful new year!

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

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