And it brought people there in their masses. “There’s loads of people here. Like millions of them,” said one speculative visitor describing the scene on the phone to his friend.
While his estimation was just a bit off, an undoubtedly large crowd saw Dublin’s Christmas season kicked off when the lights of the 50 foot Christmas tree were turned on in the Dublin Docklands on the opening night.
The I Believe in Christmas festival is Ireland’s first winter food, drink, craft and horticulture festival.
The tree is one of many attractions that organisers hope will bring up to 10,000 people to the Christmas village over the next month.
Among them, a new location for Clery’s Santa and his elves in the I Believe in Christmas village. Kids lined up in anticipation for an early present from the ever-generous Father Christmas, who was working as hard as ever in the Grotto.
Children and parents alike marvelled at a carousel befitting of 18th Century France which one woman working there said was “the largest carousel in Ireland”.
A couple hundred carol singers gathered and sang with the chirpiness and verve that one might expect from their opening salvo of a long month ahead.
So I Believe in Christmas had the biggest tree, the biggest carousel and a significantly large choir. It was not being shy in its approach this winter but why would it be? Studies show Irish people love Christmas.
A report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found that last Christmas we spent almost €965 ($1,200) per person, almost twice as much as Americans.
Traders hoping to capitalise on this generosity badgered visitors in a non-threatening way typical of a market scene.
Items sold at the stalls varied from the quirky (I Love Seaweed and Bearded Candles) to the traditional Christmas (Elves Gallery).
It is in the stalls where organisers hope to make back their money. The market will focus on supporting Irish businesses, traders, craftspeople, producers and charities.
Traditional festive eateries were plentiful too with mulled wine a popular choice among shoppers.
Traders were cautiously optimistic about their sales in a 28-day festival where it is hoped that €8.4 million will be injected into the economy.
One trader from Bamboo Sweets said that they expected regular business in the village, more business than they would usually get because of all the “people who walk around to get a feel of the festive cheer”.
Tony from Elves Gallery was less optimistic about this winter but sees it as a long-term positive for the economy. “We are hoping to get through the next 28 days while we improve our name and stock. Hopefully we will make a few bob in the process”.
“It is going to bring business to this part of the city. In a year or two, this will be the main destination for people outside of Ireland, not just locals.”