Scandinavian Christmas Market ready to expand as it rebuilds after Covid and Brexit

East Yorkshire’s Scandinavian community is counting down to the biggest event of the year for the Danish Church in Hull and its partner organisation, Nordic House cultural centre.

Dorthe Hostick with some of the goods which will be on sale at the Scandinavian Christmas Market in Hull

The Scandinavian Christmas Market, which will take place on Saturday 25 November at the Church in Hull city centre, attracts visitors from across the north as well as neighbours from round the corner.

It dates back to the 1960s when, according to some of the church elders, delicacies included paté which was handmade by members of the congregation using the pastor’s bathtub.  

Organisers are building up the market with more space and extended opening hours as it continues to recover from the closure enforced by Covid, but they say it is the impact of Brexit which is delaying the return to a two-day event.

Dorthe Hostick, chair of the social fund at the Danish Church, said: “For us it is stressful and hard work but we love working together to make it happen. The preparations start at the beginning of the year and it has become so much more difficult because of Brexit.

“We can still get most of the things that people want to buy but everything is more complicated. Before Brexit we could just order what we wanted and it all came on a pallet from Denmark just a few days later. Now it takes longer and it costs more because of import duty and clearance.”

Dorthe moved to Hull in 1977, attended the market for the first time the following year and has been a regular ever since. She is one of around 30 volunteers who support Charlotte Theill – manager of Danish Church and Nordic House and the only employee – in staging the event.

Charlotte said: “Since the first Danish Church was consecrated in Hull in 1871 it has become an integral part of the city. The original building was flattened in an air raid in 1941 so the community built our current home, which features some items rescued from the rubble. We’ll celebrate the 70th anniversary of this building next year, but for now it’s all about the market.

“It was first held in 1966 and before Covid we attracted about 1,200 people over two days. We had to miss 2020 but the numbers are picking up now. Last year we got 700 on just one day and people were queueing down the street, so this year we’ve opened the upstairs area as well and we’ll be starting an hour earlier.

“We’ll be selling Danish produce – chocolates, herring, pickles, gifts, decorations, Danish books, all sorts of quirky things. You can’t find them anywhere else in the local area and that makes them extra special. There has always been high demand for Scandinavian design.

“People also come for the occasion – the hygge, a Danish word which generally means cosy comfort and hospitality. We’ll have a pop-up café serving open sandwiches of salmon, prawns and herring and also that home-made liver pate prepared by Danes to their secret recipe – but no longer using a bath tub!”

Dorthe added: “We get people from Leeds, York, Manchester, Liverpool, across the north. Some come by rail or bus – we’re very close to the transport interchange – and those who live nearby just walk round. We’re easy to find because we have big banners hanging from the building and we fly the Danish flag!

“People tell us that coming here is the start of their Christmas. Some of them have lived around here for years and have been coming for all that time. As soon as they enter the building they love the atmosphere and they like to be able to see something different.”

The Scandinavian Christmas Market will take place on Saturday 25 November from 10am until 4pm at the Danish Church in Osborne Street, Hull. Admission is £1.50, which includes Danish mulled wine and a festive biscuit, subject to availability.