Posted 17th December 2020
As you meander through the mulled wine and hot chocolate scented market, you encounter a stall that isn’t as inviting… ‘chestnuts for only £5 a bag’. Hmmm, you think to yourself, maybe I’ll miss them out this year so you continue weaving your way through (of course this year with the two-metre rule, may not be so much of a challenge) and you stumble across another uninviting stall… ‘will it be camembert or cheddar, what will it brie?!’. You not so unsurprisingly miss that one out too.
Still being carried by the smell of mince pies, the current of the crowd whisks you into a corner where you encounter an over-excited elf rustling raffle tickets inches from your nose. ‘Buy a ticket to be in with a chance to win our Christmas special pies! Filled with crispy cooked turkey’ - nice ‘layered in gravy’ - yum! ‘Topped with cranberry’ - ooo! ‘And cased in a stilton based pastry’ - oh…maybe not then.
Politely declining, you immerse yourself back into the crowd.
The scenario above was inspired by my friend who has an all nut and dairy allergy and when she told me how her Christmas market experience was, it surprised me that she was able to safely navigate her way through. My personal allergies are not greatly affected throughout the festive season so, with the help of my friend’s experience, we’ll be sharing our best advice on getting through the Christmas period.
1) Always, always, always check the labelling
But we check labels on everything, all year round so why is it so important now? Although exchanging gifts with family members or friends who already have knowledge of your allergies may seem risk-free, some gifts such as skincare hampers contain (wait for it) ‘amygdalus, impinguabitur locusta’ which is Latin for almond extract. Although it’s rare to cause a reaction, it's something you may need to check!
2) Find alternatives to the treats you like
The Free From Market is constantly growing with the appearance of Lexi’s Treats and Calvin’s Coconut bread really shining in 2020, not to mention the whole range from Creative Nature. Have a browse online or in local shops to see to find seasonal ranges from your trusted free from brands.
3) Search for non - food events/activities
A personal favourite during the Christmas period and now a family tradition is having a wander through a lit tree display and browsing through festive market stalls, accompanied by the freshly mulled, spiced wine. There are many activities (due to Covid, some may not be going ahead) that are Christmas themed so look online to see what’s happening near you! Maybe it’s time to dust off those ice skates ;)
4) Be confident and vocal about your allergies
This applies all year round but is especially important during the Christmas period. With town centres bustling with shoppers, it’s not hard to mishear or forget to mention your allergy. My friend explains what happened on her during a trip to the midlands.
‘My family and I were shopping all day so we were desperate for a sit-down. Spotting a nearby cafe we went to recuperate, only to be presented with a 10 metre queue. After some more standing around, we finally got to the till. ‘Hi, I have a severe nut and dairy allergy, will I be okay to eat this?’ gesturing to my packaged sandwich. ‘Yes, that’s fine.’ I thought it was strange how she knew just by looking at it but with my weary legs and rumbling stomach distracting me, I sat down and opened it up. It was a ham and lettuce sandwich without any butter but as I peeled back a slice of bread I saw triangles of cheese - piled on one another. Fortunately, I hadn’t touched the cheese but if my gut instinct hadn’t told me to check, that Christmas trip would have ended very differently.
We then went back up to the same cashier who served us and she went on to explain that she didn’t hear me say ‘dairy’ only ‘nuts’.
5) Don’t let your allergies prevent you from having a fun time!
Although your allergies may require extra measures, it shouldn’t stop you from having a good time. Use this time to reflect on how you’ve overcome some of the challenges your allergies may have presented throughout the year.
Thank you Allergy & Free From Show for sharing this blog. For more tips and advice on managing your allergies during the festive season, check out the animation in this months Allergy & Free From Chat (also available on YouTube and allergiesinbold.com).
Thank you for reading and Merry Christmas!
Thalina - Allergies In Bold