Manchester's Christmas Markets stalls have been so busy that they are running out of new mugs to serve drinks - just three weeks since opening.

Some 40,000 new mugs were put into circulation on food and drink stalls for the big return of the 2021 event, with two different designs in black and white.

But many stalls are now running out of the white mugs altogether, and have had to draw on "standby mugs" from the council instead - which are of the 2018 mug design.

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Council bosses point to "unprecedented demand" for the mug shortage, with the busiest start to the Christmas Markets "for years" with thousands of visitors flocking to the city centre attraction.

"Unprecedented demand" as thousands of visitors have been flocking to the 2021 Manchester Christmas Markets

Everyone purchasing a hot drink on the markets must pay a £3 deposit for their mug - which is refundable if you take it back to a bar, or, as thousands are clearly doing, you can keep it and take it home.

But being served up a drink in the 2018 mug has left some visitors upset - and others fuming - who had hoped to take home the "new" mug as a keepsake from the markets.

This is the first year that the mug does not have a date on it, so is seen as more desirable to collectors.

One visitor to the markets this weekend, who asked not to be named, said she was about to send a photo of her mug to family - but was upset to discover it had the 2018 date on it.

A reader has sent in this picture of a 2018 Christmas Markets mug she was served hot chocolate in

She said: "I'd bought a hot chocolate from a stall on Cathedral Gardens, but when I went to send a picture to my mum I was like hang on a second what's the date on this?

"My first thought was I wonder how many people have drunk from this if they're still using mugs from 2018?

"I wasn't going to keep it with 2018 on it so I handed it back to get a deposit, I was pretty gutted.

"Thankfully my mum had already bought one of the new ones from the week before so at least we've got one of the new designs at home."

The shiny new mugs as seen on opening day at the Markets

Manchester Council's Christmas spokesman Cllr Pat Karney said that stalls were running out of the new mugs due to "unprecedented demand" at this year's festive event, which opened to the public on November 12.

He said: "Due to unprecedented demand some traders are using our standby of 2018 mugs.

"All 40,000 of the undated mugs are being used or kept by visitors to the Markets.

Pat Karney and market trader Anya Manke both had a new mug on opening day

"The markets are the busiest we have seen for years.

"People want to celebrate and connect at Christmas given all the horrible times we have had."

With another 18 days shopping days to go until Christmas, we asked Pat if there is a council contingency plan if the 2018 mugs run out as well.

He replied: "Are you any good at pottery?"

The Christmas Markets have returned across eight zones in Manchester city centre this year, including a new food and drink hub on Piccadilly Gardens, called Winter Gardens.

They also spread out across Market Street, King Street, New Cathedral Street, St Ann's Square, Exchange Square and Cathedral Gardens.

The coveted Christmas Markets mug and a sausage

The majority of food and drinks stalls are open from 10am to 9pm every day now until Wednesday, December 22.

But this year there will also be an extended run of hours at both the Winter Gardens zone and Cathedral Gardens where the ice ring Skate Manchester is based, open until Sunday, January 2.

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