Snowflakes & Santa, strawberries & shortcakes, marzipans and muffins, bon-bons & candies, scented candles and hand-crafted wooden musical boxes and finally everything dipped in chocolate – that’s what dreams are made up of. ALSO the Weihnachtsmarkt or Christmas markets in Germany…
Christmas markets originated in Germany, Austria and Alsace in France, particularly in a few places in Europe where people spoke in German. These street markets bestowed with all kind of magic and mystery during the festive season of Christmas dates back to the middle ages. And we sure are fortunate that the tradition still continues, unlike many other traditional faits which have died a natural death with advancement of human technology and our desire for high-tech entertainment. Enter a German Christmas market and you are transported into an era of innocence where Kinetic X-Box and Playstations are absolutely redundant and children are perched up on horses and carriages twirling away in brightly lit-up Merry-go-rounds. Are all these for real? Cherries, strawberries, raspberries, pineapples, almonds, peanuts, marshmallows – all dipped in chocolate? Or, the Marzipan hearts where wishes are inscribed proclaiming one’s eternal loyalty to the beloved or the beautiful hand-crafted wooden boxes with scenes depicting a page out of a fairy-tale book? Both tourists and residents jostle among the crowds standing in long queues in front of the traditional wooden stalls and kiosks decorated with dripping white snow and snowflakes and festive lights as they sell traditional food, drinks, sweets, candies and many more. A 100ft tall Christmas tree towering over the traditional town square/centre, the occasional glimpses of locals dressed in their traditional country attire singing and dancing to the folk tunes – engulfs the entire town in a festive fervour.
The first Christmas markets were held way back in 1384 in Bautzen, a German town on the river Spree. While, the Viennese Christmas markets dates back to 1294! The opening of the traditional Christmas markets usher in Advent (from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming” is a season observed in many Western Christian churches, a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Christmas [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advent]). Also known as Christkindlmarkt, Christkindlesmarkt, Christkindlmarket, and Weihnachtsmarkt, Christmas market is a street market associated with the celebration of Christmas during the four weeks of Advent.
Though these markets originated in Germany, Austria and France, they are now being held in many other countries. Thankfully, even in the glitzy shopping malls in Dubai, the city which is my home now! Enchanting winter wonderlands transform itself amidst the modern walls of a shopping mall. The festive spirit is the same – the air is all sprinkled with seasonal cheer and celebration. Candied apples, roasted chestnuts, mulled beverages and hot chocolate – everything that reminds you of Christmas, is available. Also being in Dubai and that too in a shopping Mall, you may stand chances to win the latest snazzy cars or gold or dirhams or perhaps a dream house presented by Santa himself in one of the mall promotions!
During this season the mood, the feelings, the emotions all over the world are the same. In-fact, it had been the same since my childhood. It didn’t matter if the Christmas tree was just a feet long as it was in my childhood, in our Kolkata home. Though we were essentially Hindus, we grew up celebrating all festivals from all religion. So Christmas would mean special rum balls from the very famous Kolkata confectioners – Flury’s. My mother would dress me up in my special gown sewn just for Christmas and we would visit the special candle-lit midnight mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral – one of the oldest structures in Kolkata. Years later I felt the same excitement as I saw my first ‘real’ Christmas tree – a fir tree almost 100 ft long in the Christmas Market in Frankfurt. As we made Frankfurt our new base for some time, we got initiated into everything really Christmassy! We first wondered over and then built our own Nativity Scene (a crèche or crib depictiing the birth of Jesus as described in the gospels) and let our 5 senses be captivated by the German Christmas – the Zwetschgamännla (figures made of decorated dried plums), Nussknacker (carved Nutcrackers), Gebrannte Mandeln (candied, toasted almonds), traditional Christmas cookies such as Lebkuchen and Magenbrot (both forms of soft gingerbread), Christstollen (Stollen), a sort of egg bread with candied fruit, Bratwurst, Glühwein, hot mulled wine (with or without a shot of brandy), or Eierpunsch (an egg-based warm alcoholic drink)! It also didn’t matter if the Christmas tree was a ‘real’ looking artificial one like in the shopping malls in Dubai, competing for a place in the Guinness Book of World Records…
A Christmas tree is a Christmas tree!
Christmas is Christmas!
A Santa is a Santa! Santa’s job is to bring happiness & gifts to children all over the world and he must be the only one in the world who does his job well! The special magic just floats automatically in the air and a new hope ushers in the new year as we wrap up the current year.
I have always refrained from making any political comments on my blog. My blog was meant to be filled with only Travel and Road Banters, travelling the world without boundaries… But I want to pause a bit and ponder. With so much of violence and terrorism around us, which part of the world is safe? Let’s hope that the magic of the festive season doesn’t dwindle like it did recently in one of the gun-attacks in the Belgian Christmas Market in Liege. While we can’t undo the tragedies of the families affected by the various political/social/natural/superficial upheavals of this year, may the next year bring in lots of happiness and safety in our lives. And that hope has just been kindled by the magic of Christmas.
Let the magic continue… if not for us but for our children!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
- It’s the start of the Christmas market it season… (visitwales.co.uk)