There are few contemporary evils more pernicious than the Christmas Fair. If you live in Krakow you just have to accept that a particularly virulent incarnation of the phenomenon takes over the otherwise blameless main market square for much of December. These days I avoid going anywhere near the center of town between October and February just to be on the safe side, but I have been enveloped by its cheesy jinglings in the past so I know what I’m talking about.
A Christmas Fair, in case you enjoy a blessed state of ignorance, is essentially a method of inducing innocent human beings into standing around in the freezing cold looking at overpriced tat. Otherwise sane people are enticed to fly halfway across Europe in bright orange sardine cans to shuffle around stalls loaded down with the kind of ludicrous objects they would be heartily disappointed to receive as gifts. They then buy these objects, fly back across half of Europe and give them to people they love. Apparently this is “Christmassy.”
Notice how the hot wine stall is shaped like a giant barrel of beer… I mean wine
The kind of doomed souls who write copy for inflight magazines get very excited by Christmas Fairs. Phrases such as “a cornucopia of gift ideas for Christmas – ranging from handmade arts and crafts to original clothing and decorations” are not uncommon revealing both a serious misunderstanding of the word “cornucopia” as well as tendency to mistake the “from… to” construction for a comprehensive list. There is nothing else apart from handmade arts and crafts and original clothing; “original” in this sense meaning “amusing for about 5 seconds but not something you would ever consider being seen dead in” and “handmade” meaning “churned out by the crate full in Bulgaria.” At any other time of the year all of this stuff is safely stored in the kind of tourist gift shops that only the most obese of American tourists would consider entering, like the Sukiennice.
Defenders of the Christmas Fair often respond to my unprovoked rantings on the subject by pointing out that you can buy nice burgers and hot wine there. This is entirely true, I retort, but by far a better way of buying appetizing meat and alcoholic beverages in the middle of December is to go into one of those conveniently fully enclosed and heated buildings dedicated to their production called restaurants. Queuing in freezing fog for an overpriced paper cup of bad wine is not something that fills my dreaming hours.