Father ‘Zippy’ Christmas sits soundly upon his perch above the Town Hall and the sweet smell of glühwein and pancakes is drifting through the air. Manchester’s Christmas Markets are here again – a little slice of Bavaria just south of Bolton, a taste of Strasbourg to the north of Stockport – and they’re in full force, bringing thousands of revellers into the city centre seeking out festive fun. And bratwurst.

Quickly becoming a staple part of any self-respecting Mancunian’s annual celebrations, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without being herded around Albert Square like cattle, bombarded by the coalescing scents of German sausage, spiced cider and chocolate, and being penned in by the unrelenting hordes of excited market-goers just like yourself.

It’s impossible to argue that visiting the market, especially now that it is spread over ten sites, is not a stressful task. It’s a behemoth, a monster, an all-encompassing mass of Christmas cheer, but it’s redeemed by those cute, handmade wooden toys and the fact that you’re doing something different, spending money somewhere other than a faceless festive chain cashing in on the celebration. This year, too, it has been announced that the market has made it into the top ten festive markets in Europe. Not bad going.

But why is it that our obsession with all things mercantile appears only to manifest itself during the winter months? In the North West we’re inundated with award-winning and interesting markets that don’t cater solely for your last-minute secret Santa present for Janet in HR and that are providing a valuable service for their local communities.

Stockport Market, with its historic, Victorian glass market hall is playing a central part in the rejuvenation of my hometown’s centre. Driving footfall into the area with quirky, monthly specials alongside more typical market traders, there’s Foodie Friday on the last of the month and a vintage village on the second Sunday of every month. It offers something new within an historic setting – the market is the only one in the North West still trading on its original site. That’s 750 years at the heart of Stockport and it’s great seeing a weekly fixture of my childhood returning to the limelight.

To the north of the city centre there’s the award-winning Bury Market. Easily reachable via Metrolink, the market took the crown of best market in Britain in 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2015. It’s worth visiting for the food market alone. There’s an abundance of cheese stands, fresh meat and fish and traders out-shouting each other with their ‘deals of the day’ in the hope of attaining your custom. It’s the last bastion of working-class culture in the North, where alongside your black pudding and Manchester tart you can take home a Harrington jacket and a sackful of vinyl, with money left over for a pint. Much like Stockport Market, its position in the town centre aids in increasing footfall in high street traders’ doors, meaning more money spent in their stores and a higher likelihood of them employing local people, further aiding the rejuvenation of the town.

On a smaller scale, there’s Levenshulme Market. Situated on the car park between the train station and the A6, this market, operating weekly for about 18 months now, has gone from strength to strength. Open on Saturdays from March through to December, some of the traders who began cutting their teeth on the market now have a presence on Levenshulme high street, with several more considering it, showing the positive effect that a marketplace can have.

Alongside these three examples you’ve also got markets in Longsight, Wythenshawe, Gorton and the New Smithfield Sunday car boot sale, as well as the Arndale food market, Church Street in the Northern Quarter and Chorlton Street Market. We really are spoilt for choice.

But why should you head down to these every month? It’s simple, really. By keeping money circulating in the local economy, your finances support fledgling businesses who are then encouraged to expand. They may take up an empty shop front on your high street – a significant problem for Stockport, which has regularly found itself at the top of empty-shop tables – and then will employ local residents who, with more income at their disposal, will be encouraged to spend, again within their local economy. Add to this the fact that a locally run business in Bury is unlikely to hide its profits offshore in the Cayman Islands and it means a very real increase in tax revenue.

So get down to your local market this weekend, support some fledgling businesses and make a direct impact on improving the economic prospects of your local area. There might even be a hotdog stand if you’re craving a Krakauer. And remember, markets are for life, not just for Christmas.

David Ewing