Mariah Carey overload and frostbitten fingers: The highs and lows of working at the Christmas market

Apfel strudel for days


Christmas lights glistening all around, Mariah Carey's angelic voice echoing through the streets, dogs pattering around in snug little Santa outfits. It's official, Christmas is upon us. And what better way to get in the spirit than by working at Edinburgh's Christmas Market?

I have taken up the challenge this year, and, aside from the occasional finger lost to frostbite, it hasn't been too bad. Who knew working at a incense stall could be so exhilarating?

For any of you wondering what working at the Christmas market is like (I know you're all wondering), here are some pros and cons.

So, with Christmas cheer in mind, let's start with the negatives. One thing which I was not prepared for was the size of the stalls. Working in a space big enough for a maximum of three people is, needless to say, a little claus-trophobic (sorry) at times. I often find myself pacing the narrow metre of floor available to me, wishing I was a passerby laughing merrily with my chums, mulled cider in hand.

Another possible negative is the constant blare of the same Christmas songs on a loop for hours on end. Don't get me wrong, I could listen to Fairytale of New York and Feliz Navidad all year long, but not really. Working six-hour shifts to this familiar rotation of music can really dull the novelty of Christmas, and it's a little heartbreaking when your flatmate puts on Last Christmas and you don't get excited.

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But don't let these meagre pessimisms dampen the mood. Everything else about the Christmas market is great. The most important perk is, by far, the 50 per cent discount on all food and drink. Yes, you heard it. An endless supply of waffles and crepes, countless hot dogs, and if I'm feeling extra wild, mulled wine for £2 (don't tell my boss). Yes, the Christmas pounds are slowly being gained, but do I really care? If for nothing else, get a job at the Christmas market for the food. Yule (again, I'm sorry) regret it if you don't.

The job also offers an abundance of weird and wonderful encounters with various customers. The most wonderful of these has to be the old woman who took a fateful phone call mid-purchase. "One second dear, I must take this", she says, while I patiently wait to scan her card. Something about tests, something about kidneys, and the phone call is over. All of a sudden we're celebrating the news that she is clear of cancer. It really was a Christmas miracle!

Of course, it's always entertaining watching unlikely road-man types pondering over which salt lamp they find most fitting. And, obviously, trying to hold a conversation with those people who have clearly enjoyed one pint too many. It's the most wonderful time for a beer, after all.

But wait – there's myrrh. There may have been previous mention of frostbite and lost fingers, but that was just for dramatic effect really. In the stall I work at there is actually a small heater. Now, it's not very powerful, but if you position it just right you can sometimes start to feel some sensation in your fingers again. Really though, it's a good feeling seeing market-goers cradling their warm cups, bundled up in layers upon layers, as you quietly gloat from the warmth of your stall.

Take from this what you will, but all I'm saying is there's snow way you'll find another job like this. Just one day watching the glimmer of 60,000 lights, listening to the not-so-distant screams of roller-coaster riders, and experimenting with how close you can get to the heater without burning your clothes, and you'll be hooked.