Warm the mulled wine and roast the chestnuts – Britain's original and best Christmas market opens today.
Since its debut in 1982, Lincoln Christmas Market has grown each year to become the iconic annual event we celebrate today, with more than 250 stalls taking over most of the cultural quarter of the city, attracting a quarter of a million visitors from around the world. And this year is set to be better than ever.
There's no better place to pick up beautiful, hand-crafted and unique gifts, as well as fresh delicacies from around the world.
Besides the stalls, there's a full roster of family friendly entertainment from singers and theatre groups on the Lincoln BIG stage outside the White Hart.
Of course no market would be complete without Santa, who has taken time out of his busy schedule to meet children in his winter wonderland at Wickham Gardens. Also making a welcome return are the funfair and big wheel – offering spectacular views over Lincoln, especially as the city lights sparkle at night.
Taking the lead from the success of last year's Olympics Gamesmakers, we've brought in our very own Market Makers. These volunteers will support the smooth running of the event for visitors and residents alike, answering questions, giving directions or just spreading the festive cheer.
There are plenty of Christmas markets taking place across the country, but in its historic setting against the backdrop of the medieval castle and the magnificent cathedral, the atmosphere during the next four days in Lincoln is beyond comparison.
Our market is the original and, we believe, still the best. Oliver Cromwell famously banned the celebration of Christmas in the way people had become used to, and in turn this saw the decline of the traditional Christmas markets in England.
The first to be revived was our very own in 1982, and is a simple reminder of what small beginnings can lead to.
I wonder how many of the visitors who attended the first Lincoln Christmas Market 31 years ago realised it would grow to become such a success?
Featuring a grand total of just 11 stalls in Castle Square, the first market was inspired by Lincoln's twin town of Neustadt in Germany. The German link is still strong, with stallholders from Neustadt bringing crafts, food and drink.
Now the market is an integral part of Lincoln's economy, bringing in around £10 million every year to traders, restaurants and hotels that contribute to an improved economy for everyone.
Also important to our city are the myriad small businesses providing our residents and services with quality services, fresh local produce and quirky gifts. This year the UK is celebrating its first Small Business Saturday, which as luck would have it falls this Saturday, December 7, during the Christmas market.
The day recognises the important role our small businesses play in the life of our city, and we're encouraging people to try somewhere new this Saturday and support our local shops. The best thing about our small businesses is, unlike the Christmas market, they're here all year round.
But it's worth remembering long after the seasonal smells, festive gifts and enchanting atmosphere have disappeared, the effects of the Christmas market remain. Visitors often return to our beautiful city at other times in the year, having realised what Lincoln has to offer.
For some, this is the most important event in the city's calendar and we strive to put on an event of which we can all be proud.
Lincoln is already blessed with more than 2,000 years of history, but why stop there? Every year the Christmas market adds its own little piece of history, so please do visit us and help make this one the best ever.
The official opening ceremony will start at 5.30pm today with a traditional carol concert and speeches on the western entrance to the cathedral. Stalls are open from noon.
For more information and to get updates follow on Twitter at @lincolnelf, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ lincolnchristmas and at www.lincoln-christmas market.co.uk