Darkness falls softly, the sounds of the day fade away. Slowly, lights begin to appear in the Altstadt. Music begins to play as laughter and excited voices begin to fill the air. You hurry down the cobblestone streets excitement building because you know, just around the corner, is the Christmas Market. You turn the corner and your senses are filled with delight. Lights hanging from the multitude of stalls, Christmas decorations gaily hung, the scent of gingerbread and spices with their sweet scent challenges your sense of smell with the sizzling sausages waiting to be eaten. The sounds of Christmas music and voices in many different languages surround you. Stalls filled with holiday decorations and locally crafted gifts or gifts from around the world fill the stalls just waiting for you.
Where to begin? Some strategically plan their shopping maneuvers like generals before a battle. Begin on the left or right and work their way across. Jump in the middle and go one way or the next. Aimlessly roam and take it all in. Follow that knowledgeable local who has already purchased some great gifts. Follow your nose and taste as many samples as you can handle while looking at each stall. Grab a cup of mulled wine and let the wine choose your route. There are so many ways to shop at Christmas market. There is no wrong or right way. The only requirement is to enjoy.
Germany and Austria offer many different Christmas Markets. They are also known as Christkindl Mark and Weihnachtsmarkt. Some are large with a living nativity and a huge decorated Christmas trees. Others are smaller set in quaint town centers with a smaller number of decorated stalls. Smaller, in this case, does not mean less. The Christmas Markets begin the end of November and continue until Christmas week. Some are even open Christmas Eve.
Why is it so special? To me, going to a Christmas Market is like visiting the North Pole and Santa’s shop. It’s not just the lights, the music and all the amazing things to buy. It’s the spirit of the season. The sense of friendliness, openness. The feelings of goodwill. Asking a question can lead to visiting over a cup of mulled wine and fresh hot gingerbread. The spirit of Christmas lives on in these amazing towns. The best part is – they are not doing it for the tourists. This is truly a tradition that has been alive for 700 hundred and we are, now, lucky enough to share in it.