SHEFFIELD XMAS LIGHTS: Christmas is coming

Cara Smith, selling hot roasted chestnuts in Fargate, Sheffield.
Cara Smith, selling hot roasted chestnuts in Fargate, Sheffield.
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IT’S beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Work is under way to transform Sheffield city centre into a winter wonderland as the countdown to December 25 begins.

The calendar might read mid-November, but already there is excitement in the air.

This year, a slice of Lapland will be brought to the city’s main shopping street with rides and a Christmas market. Log cabins and lights are being erected in Fargate ahead of the Christmas lights switch-on on Sunday.

X Factor winners Joe McElderry and Matt Caardle will turn on the lights from the main stage in Barker’s Pool while stars from Cinderella will flick the switch from the Town Hall balcony.

Wyatt Vernon, boss of Bolton-based Wooden Construction Kit, has been getting his cabin – selling traditional toy-making kits kids can build themselves – ready for the Christmas rush.

He said: “We’re here every day until Christmas Eve. We do good business in Sheffield. The market is really good and parents want their kids to have the best time possible.”

Fellow trader Georgia Stokes, who travelled from Cambridge to sell fur hats, jewellery and scarves from her cabin, said: “We came to Sheffield last year and it was really good. The market is getting better.”

Adding to the fun is a magical wonderland featuring illuminations from Blackpool in the Peace Gardens, while the Winter Garden will be transformed into an enchanted forest with fairy grottos, storytelling, entertainment and Christmas craft activities.

There will also be a special elf trail running for one week from this Sunday. Children can pick up clue sheets from the Winter Gardens.

Mum-of-five Emma Stringer, 27, of Firth Park, Sheffield, said: “It’s looking quite good. The kids are excited already. Sheffield does a good job of its Christmas lights.”

For many shoppers, a sign of the festive season is the arrival of the roasted chestnut vendors – who set up their stalls in Fargate on November 9 and work seven-days-a-week until Christmas Eve.

Seller Cara Smith, 28, said: “We’ve been here nine years now and Sheffield has got much better at celebrating Christmas. We’ve got the markets here now, which really help.”