The Christmas market disappointment

Last weekend, after we finished visiting the Shanghai Natural History Museum, we had a quick stroll in the Jing’an Sculpture Park. It was sunny, the air was clean, the trees displayed beautiful autumn colors; I wanted to stay in the park. But I had planned to visit, and bought tickets to, a Christmas market. I had seen it advertised in one of those magazines for expats and it sounded very interesting: “Beautifully decorated stalls offer handicrafts and gifts, festive baked treats, glühwein (mulled wine) and various hot drinks to keep you warm as well as delicious regional specialties from Germany and other countries. To celebrate the festive time, a Christmas crib with living animals, choirs singing and Santa Klaus will all be waiting for you”. Nice, right? I have never been to a German Christmas market and I wanted to know what the fuss was all about. Buying the tickets online got me a 10 RMB discount and a free drink. So we left the park and took a taxi to the market, which was not too far.

When we arrived I realized I had made a big mistake. Seeing it from the outside, the market was tiny. Less than 15 “beautifully decorated stalls”. Yes, they were wooden hut-like stalls and had Christmas decoration. But I was going to find out that those words were the only truth the magazine description contained.

That was the whole market...

That was the whole market…

As I had already paid for the tickets and we were there anyway, we went in. I had expected the free drink included in the price to be mulled wine, but no. Online ticket holders were sent to one of the stalls where you needed to scan a QR code and and follow a guy’s WeChat account to get a cocktail. Call me weird, but drinking a cocktail at 4 pm is definitely not what I call a good idea (I rarely drink alcohol at all). As I was embarrased to tell the guy that I didn’t want the drink anymore after he had explained all the process, I chose a hot chocolate tequila cocktail. Hello, headache for the rest of the day.

Hoping to find any of the nice things described in the ad, we went around the market. It took us 5 minutes. As I said, it was very small. There was a stall with mulled wine, yes, and a very long queue to get it too. “Specialties from Germany and other countries”… well, one place was selling sausages, another Belgian waffles and another was making pasta dishes. No idea what the “festive baked treats” were. Are waffles considered Christmasy? “Christmas crib with living animals”: nowhere to be seen. “Choirs singing”? Nope. “Santa Klaus”? His reindeer cart flight might have been delayed because he was not there. In fact, there was not even a stage where the choirs could sing, or a corner with a chair for Santa.

At least there were several nutcrackers...

At least there were several nutcrackers…

I wondered if the organizers had encountered some problems and couldn’t offer all the things announced, or if the magazine had just lied about everything. But I was very disappointed, and it was not the first time I have been disappointed by an event organized by expats in Shanghai. A couple of years ago, when my dad was visiting, he heard there was a “Spanish week in Shanghai” event. We drove to Shanghai to find out that the event was pretty shitty too. Half of the stalls were closed and the ones open didn’t offer anything interesting. Oh, and the entrance was 60 RMB. I cannot understand why there would be an entrance fee if there is no one performing and you are only getting access to a place where you need to spend money to buy the products offered.

So, I still don’t know how a real Christmas market looks like. But at least we had a more decent Christmas market in Suzhou. It was also organized by foreigners and there were many more stalls offering lots of products, handicrafts, food and drinks. Oh, and there was no entrance fee.

I usually don’t like complaining but I was so angry with the Shanghai Christmas market! Having paid an entrance fee I would expect to see what the ad announced, at the least. Did you visit any Christmas market this year? How was it?

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