Christmas

Why Santa makes it ‘Chrispmas’ down in Poplar

PUBLISHED: 20:00 22 December 2015 | UPDATED: 20:54 22 December 2015

It's little Giovanni Cappella's first Christmas at seven months, meeting Santa at Poplar's 'Chrispmas' festival  [photos: Rehan Jamil]

It's little Giovanni Cappella's first Christmas at seven months, meeting Santa at Poplar's 'Chrispmas' festival [photos: Rehan Jamil]

© Rehan Jamil

Families turned out for the free “Chrispmas” festival—in East London’s famous ‘Chrisp Street’ Market, of course. It was the big extravaganza on the Christmas calendar for hundreds of children.

Hundreds turn up for 'Chrispmas' Fest at Chrisp Street MarketHundreds turn up for 'Chrispmas' Fest at Chrisp Street Market

Traders and the local housing association laid on the seasonal treat at the Market Square, off Poplar’s main East India Dock Road near the Blackwall Tunnel.

The big draw, of course, was Santa, who set up his grotto in the market place where the youngsters took their wish list to make sure he brings the right toys down the right chimney at midnight on Christmas Eve.

But almost rivalling him in popularity were the cuddly farm animals, sheep and donkeys, brought from Spitalfields City Farm’s urban petting zoo.

Eight-year-old Saba Nawar knows where shes headingEight-year-old Saba Nawar knows where shes heading

Ramesses the Ram was the big hit down on the farm.

Craft and activity stalls were also laid out while Market Square was filled with music curated by Box Of Toys.

Face-painters did their thing and the Idea Store ran storytelling sessions.

Santa puts his turkey order in at the butcher's at Chrisp Street Market, with a special hug for the shop assistantSanta puts his turkey order in at the butcher's at Chrisp Street Market, with a special hug for the shop assistant

A Makers’ Exchange pop-up market gave shoppers a chance to buy unusual hand-crafted gifts “made by locals with love”.

It ran alongside the usual shops and stalls which had oodles of cards, gifts, jewellery and even taxidermy mice!

But best of all, if you were hungry, was a mince pie eating competition.

Ramesses the Ram from Spitalfields city farm is a big hit with the human kids at Poplar's 'Chrispmas' FestRamesses the Ram from Spitalfields city farm is a big hit with the human kids at Poplar's 'Chrispmas' Fest

Meanwhile street performers dressed as Christmas puddings, although they really weren’t edible.

The festival was the icing on the cake of Christmas season activities at Chrisp Street which started last month with MP Jim Fitzpatrick lighting up the giant tree in Market Square, after carols from five Tower Hamlets primary schools—Lansbury Lawrence, Manorfield, St Saviours, Bygrove and Mayflower.

The MP’s big switch had been followed by Embrace dance group with a lesson for movers and shakers.

Daineta Tamasauskaite, 7, feeding Doris the DonkeyDaineta Tamasauskaite, 7, feeding Doris the Donkey

‘Chrispmas’ is organised by Poplar Housing and Regeneration Community Association, known to its tenant families as ‘Poplar Harca’.

“Christmas is my favourite time of year,” Poplar Harca’s excited chief executive Steve Stride said. “It’s great putting on this show to see the community out together.”

It made him feel like a big kid again.

Zack Burrel, 5, and Maya Li-Rahman, 9, have given Santa their wish lists to make sure he gets it right on the nightZack Burrel, 5, and Maya Li-Rahman, 9, have given Santa their wish lists to make sure he gets it right on the night

His organisation is one of the East End’s biggest social landlords managing 9,000 tenancies.

It regularly stages festivals for its vast “family of families”, with a little help from the purses of the High Streets Fund and the Mayor of London.

Other projects include employment and training courses, fitness classes, youth activities and pensioner groups to spread community spirit all year round in the East End.

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