I’m sure many of you have thought to yourself “What does one do during the Christmas season in Europe?” Maybe you aren’t sure whether or not you want to know. Secretly, you are jealous. Some of you are not so secretly jealous. I cannot lie to you. The Christmas season in Europe is pretty fantastic. I cannot play the martyr and pretend that I hold up in a cave, living off of crusty bread and water. I most certainly love where God has placed me in this time of my life. I am afforded many opportunities for little, to no, cost.
However, most days, I wake up a little home sick and aware of the empty school building, located less than a mile away from my apartment. I find myself missing the staff and students who have flown to the ends of the earth to be with family. Yet, I am not the only one left here in Kandern praying for a white Christmas. To lift our spirits, we come together to enjoy Christmas movies and an endless supply of homemade hot cider.
Next to spending time with friends, my favorite Christmas tradition in Europe is visiting Christmas markets. To give you a better understanding of what these markets are, I will paint you a picture (not literally). Then, you can scroll down and see an actual picture. Isn’t technology grande?
Christmas markets appear all over Western Europe. The most popular ones can be found in the large cities, like Frankfurt and Paris. We don’t live terribly close to either of those cities, so we settle for the cozy markets of the smaller European cities.
A Christmas market is usually set up in the center of the city. The market is composed of several small, wooden booths. These booths sell all things related to Christmas: ornaments, decorations, scarves, hats, gloves, soap (of course), jewelry, art, books, and other assorted items. Depending on where you are, you can also find all kinds of special European food. I call it booth food. Booth food includes: bratwurst/grillwurst, crêpes, pretzels, various hot nuts, raclette, glüwein (special hot spiced red wine), hot cider, and hot chocolate (homemade).
For the price of parking and a quick meal on the go, one can enjoy a lovely stroll through the Christmas market. I usually find little gifts for my family at these markets. Other than that, I like to go so that I can soak in the Christmas spirit. Buildings are decorated, Christmas music is playing, and window-shopping is acceptable. Every once in a while one does find a treasure for themselves, but usually the Christmas market is an opportunity to spend time with friends in a charming little town. It’s an adventure! An inexpensive adventure in Europe. In the absence of our loved ones, what could be better?
(Booth food in Colmar, France)
(Noël market in Alsace/Colmar, France)
(Magical market in Basel, Switzerland)
(“Magic Street” in Basel, Switzerland)
(The romantic streets of Freiburg, Deutschland)
(Manger scene in the Freiburg Münster. Jesus won’t appear on the scene until Christmas.)
(Freiburg Christmas Market)
(Lörrach Christmas Market)
(Typical German Christmas decorations)