Weihnachtsmärkte

As the sun starts to set at 4:30pm and the weather begins to drop to freezing, it starts to get little difficult living so far north. The freezing rain pattering on the window at 7:30am doesn’t invite you to wake up. Riding a bicycle to work becomes dangerous due to black ice and low lighting. The body and brain almost feel to be shutting down. And then, one morning when you are walking to work with your giant winter coat zipped up so far you can hardly see through the hood, there is a glimmer of light peaking through the small hole left for your eyes and nose. You look towards them, and then there they are. White tents adorned with flickering lights are being pitched for the Christmas markets – they’re here!

AltonaMarkt

Those who know me know that I am a notorious Christmas hater – a humbug, a grinch. I take pride in blaming Jesus for stealing my birthday thunder and depriving me of decorated lockers in middle school, true birthday parties with friends and always a terribly dark birthday forced to be had with my family. I’ve gotten over the bitterness a little as I’ve grown, and now miss my family birthday gatherings, but I still cringe as soon as I hear Christmas songs on the radio or in stores and shirk away from anything “merry.”

And then I moved to Germany and got to experience Weihnachtsmärkte – German Christmas Markets.

Compared to the US Christmas experience where you feel like you’re being hit over the head with “happiness” and “buy me,” Christmas in Germany doesn’t feel as contrived and kitschy. Here, it feels like real happiness, which seems to be centered around the christmas markets that are scattered all over town. In Hamburg we have about 7-10 large markets all very near to either where I work or live. In the evening after work, we meet to have Glühwein (hot mulled wine) or Feuerzangenbowle (a hot rum punch with a ton of sugar). Pair that with some candied nuts, Marzipan, Plätzchen (cookies), Zimtstern (cinnamon stars), Lebkuchen (a gingerbread cookie), and Bratwurst, and I’m a happy woman.

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RathausMarkt

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Each market also has it’s own collectable Glühwein mug, which are impracticably small and excessively cute. Our first year, my goal was to collect them from all of the markets. I think that three years later, I have lots of glühwein mugs and lots of hazy memories of nights spent too long with colleagues or friends eating bratwurst and chestnuts.

Germany during Christmas time is magical. And I don’t think I’m a grinch anymore!