Christmas is an important time for any community, and in many cases large groups of locals get together during the winter season for celebration. The town of Ashford in Surrey is certainly accustomed to festive traditions, with the annual Christmas Market taking place this year on December 1st.


The Christmas Market is a yearly celebration organised by Ashford Wide, a local committee dedicated to showing their appreciation for the community. The group are always planning something new to keep the area lively, whether that's hosting charity fairs or holding competitions for the best dressed Christmas tree, and the market is just one of their many contributions. For years the market has provided an engaging, fun and festive experience for all ages, and despite the celebration being cancelled last year due to COVID restrictions, it returned to mark the end of 2021 to get people into the spirit of winter once again.


As always, the market stalls were entirely run by local businesses. Some old favourites returned, such as stalls selling home-made honey and spreads, with other new marquees offering everything from books and pottery to sweets and chestnuts. The range of products available was immense, with goods that appealed to people no matter their age or interests. When combined with the fact that all the sellers were local to the area it truly highlights the strength and creativity of what is a relatively small community. Live performances from carol singers, musicians and dance routines from young people also added to the energy and cheer of the event. 


In addition to the stalls, one other thing remains constant across each iteration of the market: Santa’s grotto. Each year a member of Ashford Wide is chosen to be Santa’s helper and rides down the high street on a light up sleigh provided by the Ashford Rotary Club. Children watch and wave as the sleigh passes by playing Christmas music, and after are able to visit Santa in the library. Although COVID again limited the time each child could stay in the grotto for, most were excited by the idea. This year myself and another student, Eve Gardner, volunteered to lend a hand with the grotto, posing as Santa's elves who were responsible for giving the children gifts and stickers as they left. I've never been directly involved in the running of the market myself, instead usually choosing to browse the stalls with friends, so to be able to help create a festive atmosphere for children and families was a great experience.


Overall, the Ashford Christmas Market was a great way to top off 2021 and I was delighted to see it return. After what has certainly been a difficult couple of years for everyone, it's great to see that people can still come together for some festive fun that unites an entire community and demonstrates the importance of creating strong relationships with those around us.