Macclesfield makes a meal of it for Christmas
PUBLISHED: 12:36 21 November 2013 | UPDATED: 18:24 22 November 2013
Christmas can't come soon enough in Macclesfield, it seems. Our writer and photographer went to meet locals who are ready and waiting for the festivities
In 1848, The Illustrated London News featured a picture that caught the public’s imagination. It showed Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their five children gathered around a decorated Christmas tree, according to a custom which the Prince had brought to the royal household from Germany.
During the festive season of 1849, Christmas trees made their first appearance in households throughout England, but it was the erection of a gigantic Christmas tree at the Crystal Palace in 1854 that prompted the installation of large trees in prominent locations in towns and villages.
Macclesfield’s public Christmas tree stands on the cobbled Market Place. It is the bright and beautiful symbol of the town’s joyous festive season and the focal point for the Treacle Markets held in and around the area on the last Sunday of each month and on the Sunday before Christmas.
From trees to presents, cards and carols, the way we celebrate Christmas is largely a Victorian invention. It was Charles Dickens who popularised the notion of Christmas as a time for the spreading of good cheer through the passing on of gifts. As everyone knows, searching for gifts can be a chore, but Macclesfield has an impressive range of independent shops and national chains with gifts galore and, as Jane Munro, who coordinates the crafts, arts and antiques stalls at the Treacle Market, points out, ‘The market is a source of unique gifts for even the trickiest uncle’.
The Treacle Market takes its name from the occasion when a horse-drawn wagon shed its load of treacle, which is said to have been licked up from the cobbles by the townspeople. Debbie Quinn, who is responsible for the food and drink aspect of the market, ensures that today’s townspeople have a much wider choice of treats. She says, ‘As well as a broad range of delicious local seasonal produce, the food on sale includes honeybread biscuits and chimney-stack cakes from Transylvania.’
Debbie will be adding a further Continental flavour to Macclesfield’s food offerings this Christmas, having recently opened the Salt Bar, a stylish restaurant on Church Street, where her two Swedish chefs serve up fine Scandinavian dishes, including distinctive takes on meat balls and beetroot salad.
During the switching-on of the Christmas lights, on November 23rd, traditional British fare in the Market Place will include roast chestnuts and mulled wine. The Treacle Markets will also have traditional touches with an Edwardian carousel, brass bands, ukulele playing and carol singing.
Another Victorian Christmas tradition that still survives, even in this age of instant electronic communications, is the exchanging of Christmas cards. A civil servant called Sir Henry Cole first came up with the idea in 1843.
Macclesfield Heritage Centre’s Rose Smith says, ‘On December 21st, we will be giving children a chance to make Victorian-style Christmas cards in our Victorian classroom and there will be craft sessions where they can make mini Christmas trees and models of robins and rocking reindeers. Schools can also arrange visits to see preparations for Christmas in a Victorian parlour.’
On December 7th, the Heritage Centre will be hosting the Northern Chamber Orchestra and the Kinder Children’s Choir in a festive evening of music, including Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, and another evening of classical music will take place on December 3rd at St Michael’s Church with a performance of Schubert’s Winterreise.
One traditional entertainment absent from Macclesfield this Christmas is pantomime, but there will be a huge amount of entertainment in the town throughout December, including a political comedy called Whipping It Up and a play about Joy Division, together with a crowded WinterFest programme which includes performances by Midge Ure and a Take That Tribute Band, a Christmas Comedy Night, a Las Vegas Party, the Rat Pack Christmas Show and even Tempest Rose’s House of Burlesque. Not pantomime, but every bit as entertaining!
MACCLESFIELD CHRISTMAS DIARY
• THE BIG CHRISTMAS LIGHTS SWITCH-ON - 23rd November
• TREACLE MARKETS in the Market Place and surrounding streets: November 24th and December 23rd
• KING EDWARD MUSIC SOCIETY – Concert by the choir and Orchestra, including carols for audience participation at St Michael’s Church, 7th December, 7.30pm; The Band at Christmas at the United Reform Church, 14th December, 7.30pm; Carols in the Stable Yard at Tatton Park, 22nd December, 3.00pm (tickets from www.kems.org.uk or pay on door).
• WHIPPING IT UP, a fast-paced comedy, at MADS Little Theatre, December 2nd to 7th (booking: 01625 611974 or firstname.lastname@example.org)
• NORTHERN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA AND KINDER CHILDREN’S CHOIR – A Festive Fantasia at the Heritage Centre, Roe Street, 7th December, 7.30pm. Tickets from Macclesfield Information Centre (01625 247 2220) or from the Silk Museum Shop at the Heritage Centre.
• SILK MUSEUM AND HERITAGE CENTRE – Christmas Quiz, 13th December; Victorian Christmas Day and Craft Workshops, 21st December (01625 612045).
• MACCLESFIELD WINTERFEST – details of a crowded December programme of events can be obtained from Macclesfield Information Centre (01625 247 2220) or box office hotline (0789 9820334) or from www.winterfestmacclesfield.com. Performances include: Schubert’s Wintereisse; the French film Amelie; Midge Ure in concert; New Dawn Fades – The Story of Joy Division; Tempest Rose’s House of Burlesque.; The Rat Pack Christmas Show; Fake That Winter Office Party (Take That Tribute Band); Las Vegas Party with the Screaming Beavers; and a Laugh Out Louder Christmas Comedy Night.