On Thursday 15 December the Christmas Market in Alicante opens in the Plaza Gabriel Miró, under the magnificent ficus trees (think of 120-foot high rubber plants!), with 40 stalls showing the work of 40 craftsmen and women, as well as a live Nativity scene, demonstrations of old crafts, live music, jugglers, workshops for children and a miniature merry-go-round.

The Market is organised by the craft association Amata, who sees to it that everyhting on the stalls is made by the people on the stalls – nothing imported, nothing made in small (or big) factories.  Just the place for some last-minute Christmas presents for people who are tired of all that designer gear and branded gizmos.

One of the major attractions of this Market was always the live Nativity stall, but this year there is an added touch – Joseph and Maria in the stable are people who earn a living with their skills.  Joseph is a talented carpenter and wood carver, while Maria produces wool using a spinning wheel.  Both will be at work while the Child sleeps quietly in His crib.  Sitting next to them is the Messenger;  Spanish children will be passing their wish list for what they hope the Three Kings will bring on Twelfth Night (6 January) – and perhaps he’ll pass on any last-minute wishes for his good friend Father Christmas.  The Messenger is helped by the story teller who tells stories to and sings songs with children who have been very good – as the parents listen on.decorar-galletas

At the stalls nearby will be other people at work.  There is the smith, under the spreading ficus tree, showing how nails were made in those days, and he also has steel roses, coat hangers and knives.  There is a sculptor working in stone, a book binder, a cordwainer (or shoemaker as they’re known these days) and a potter with a wheel.  Visitors can watch how the goods on the stalls are made, and children are given the opportunity to use their own hands at one of the many workshops run by crafts people.

On Friday evening and all day Saturday and Sunday the potter will help children turn their own clay pots (NB parents, bring wipes!) and Saturday and Sunday Daniela will show them how to decorate Christmas cookies with traditional figures using white syrup.  On Friday and Monday morning there will be a large table with plenty of materials at which – with a little help – children (and their parents) can make Christmas decorations for the tree and the festive table.  When he’s not too busy, the baker will allow children to knead dough and form small loaves to be baked in the huge wood-fired oven.

The 40 stalls will offer a really wide variety of craft work – ceramics, decorated boxes, wood carving, leather and fabric bags, leather made-to-measure belts and shoes, candles and decorative painted stones.  Stalls with all sorts of jewelry in semi-precious stones, silver, macramé, wood, glass and even paper origami figurines.  For the younger children there are wooden toys, puppets and cuddly figures.  All participants take their tools and equipment with them to adjust or adapt what you see on the stall, or – if that doesn’t work – will take special orders.

Although Joseph and Maria couldn’t get a room, at least they can eat – and so can all other visitors.  Stalls with turrón (Spanish nougat), fig bread, marmalade and honey, cheese and a wide range of toasted nuts and seeds.  There is a tavern with a bbq, beer and wine, a stall selling filled pancakes and even a stall selling Glühwein (hot spiced wine).  All round the square are proper bars and restaurants, each with its own terrace – nobody needs go hungry

The Market is held in the Plaza Gabriel Miró – usually known as the Plaza de Correos because of the lovely Art Deco Post Office with its wonderful tiled facade.  There are several underground car parks near by, and you can use bus or tram if you want to leave the car at the edge of the town.  The Market opens Thursday 15 December at 6 pm and finishes Monday evening on 19 December. Opening hours from 11 am to 2 pm and from 5 pm to 9 pm (on Thursday only in the evening).

More information (in English) on 639 979 or by looking at the Amata web site (also in English) with photographs of last year’s market on http://www.amata.es/Alicante15.html.  Perhaps it helps to know that this time of the year the shops in Alicante are also open on the Sunday.