Santa arrives at Belfast's Christmas market
Santa has arrived at Belfast's Christmas market, signalling the beginning of the holiday season for many.
The market at city hall is expected to attract 800,000 visitors as it celebrates a decade of festive delight.
Ten years ago the multi-award winning Christmas market began as a small group of gazebos and a handful of traders but has now grown into one of our best-loved festive events.
Every year the grounds of city hall are transformed into a traditional festive German style market complete with 90 hand crafted wooden chalets and other structures, twinkling lights and the aroma of the traditional spirit-warming Glühwein.
The market opened it's gates on Saturday, signalling the start of the Christmas season for many.
It Generates millions of pounds in economic benefits for Belfast each year, although some traders have previously complained that it pulls customers away from other areas of the city.
On Monday Santa Claus arrived and was greeted by a group of schoolchildren singing Christmas carols.
He led them on a tour of the market, before arriving at the grotto, where the children gave him their Christmas list.
One schoolgirl said: "It was very exciting. We got to tell Santa what we wanted for Christmas. I wanted some new books to read."
The Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon joined Santa and the kids. She said: "it's absolutely brilliant. Santa has landed in the grotto and there's a long line of children who just can't wait to get in to see him."
Visitors are expected to enjoy a range of foods this year, including crepes from France, Belgian chocolates, Spanish Paella and an exotic selection of ostrich, wild boar and crocodile burgers for those with a taste for adventure.
The Lord Mayor said: "The market creates an amazing buzz around the city centre. At all times of day people are in and it's very busy. The smell of food is amazing."
Close to 30% of the market is made up of local traders, many of whom started at the award winning St George’s Market.
These traders sell products like non alcoholic cordials, hand carved name plaques, locally produced chocolate and original art.
Those who visit Santa’s Grotto can help support the Lord Mayor’s charity, Youth Link, an inter-church youth service for Northern Ireland established in 1991, to provide support and training for youth workers and community relations experiences for young people.
John Peacock, community relations manager for Youth Link said: "we work with young people across the province and it's great to work with them at Santa's grotto."
The market is open from 10am each day (1pm on Sundays), and runs until 21 December.
Belfast Telegraph Digital