Images by Allana Morrison
The scent is the first thing that hits you. Before the lights come into focus and the murmur becomes a babble, it’s the aroma that kicks in.
Close your eyes. Inhale. Feel the sharpness in your nose (that’ll be the cold) followed by a burst of – what is it – nostalgia? Forgotten memories? A different time, a different place…innocence.
But where exactly? Candy floss, crepes with Nutella, fried onions. You know those aromas. You know them well. Glance up. High above the fairy lights and nativity scenes, a web of steel rises steeply. The big wheel. The biggest wheel. Even now, it still impresses. As big as when you were a kid, wandering carefree through the fairground.
The fairground. Of course.
Edinburgh Christmas Market
Technically it’s a Christmas Fayre, but for those who recall carousels and games of skill, Edinburgh Christmas Market is the fair. A fairground for kids and former kids, a place to gaze at pretty things, devour sweet things and ride on dizzy things.
You don’t visit the Christmas market; you inhale it. You breathe it. You soak it up and imbibe its essence, carried on the chill night air. Bratwurst and frankfurters. Bier, not beer. Franzose with calvados. Hot apple toddy. Hot cider. Cold evening.
Fried food sizzles and wafts – not the working man’s fried food but the yummy mummy’s: feta burgers, potato puffs, chilli nuggets and mozzarella sticks. Butterscotch, lemon, sugar and marshmallow.
The lights twinkle and the tills ring while the hum of 1,000 conversations rises and falls like the tide. Is the market the last bastion of traditionalism – the keeper of that elusive Christmas spirit? Or is it a capitalist triumph, overpriced trinkets mimicking the ghost of Xmas past? Perhaps neither; perhaps both. Perhaps everything and nothing, but the people don’t seem to mind. It’s a facsimile of a Christmas, but it’s a good copy. An all-singing, all-dancing multicultural affair.
Homeless and hungry reads the sign. Remember those less fortunate.
Cardboard reindeer. Ornate bowls. Cinnamon, cardamoms, vegetable strudel. Breath lingers then dissipates. Gourmands queue at the Farmers Grill. Award-winning cheese as Crosby croons. Sexy Spanish, sexy French.
The lights race counterclockwise against the wheel while the venerable buildings of Princes Street watch impassively. Round and round goes the train as the scent of perfume mixes with the dried citrus fruits and maple syrup.
Red lips and stolen smiles. Fleeting thoughts of brief encounters. Check-ins and Twitpics. Uggs and snoods. Gilets and beanies fight the forces of winter. Eyes sparkle. Lights sparkle. Glitter, frosting, jewels sparkle.
Tubby goths with green hair and Asians with hipster specs. Kids hoisted on shoulders. Men in blazers. Girls in ripped tights and ear muffs. Mulled apricot, mulled raspberry, mulled everything.
The wheel keeps turning, the tills keep ringing and Bing keeps crooning. Everything is going to be okay.
Selfies and Snapchats. Pretty lights and pretty faces. Everything is going to be okay. It’s Christmas.
Images by Allana Morrison