December, lighting the touchstone of community
The holidays magnify all of the joy—and sadness—of the relationships we have nurtured, treasured, and lost through the years. December can be emotionally sunny, windy, or heavy as wet snow. And yet, we use it as an annual touchstone to reflect on love and to celebrate the community we have, near or far.
This year, all of my family and friends fall into the “far” category, and we do it in a part of the world that gets and stays dark for longer than we do back home on the East Coast of the US. Fred and I stay in touch mostly through Facebook, posting our occasional weekend excursions around Germany and scrolling through the lives of our connections to follow the ebb and flow of your lives, feeling as close as we can until we return home.
One way we buoy our spirits is to engage in the ubiquitous German celebration of community—the Christmas Market. Not only do the church bells peal merrily, lifting your spirit day and night, but the banners and lights and festivals beckon to you from every bridge and corner as you drive through the country; and we stop at every one, taking in the unique feel each one offers.
From eating locally famous Dresdener Stollen to sipping Rüdesheimer Kaffee and the chance to attend one or more of the 2,500 Christmas markets across the country, there is no end to celebrating the joy of the season in Germany.
I imagine the long, dark winters must have prompted the celebration of not only of Christ, but of one another as entire communities gather nightly, no matter the weather. Complete with food and drink of every imaginable sweet, savory, and umami flavor, from border to border, Germany boasts heart-warming, charming, and fun traditions hundreds of generations old.
Wandering through a Christmas market will revive your childlike heart as you pass by nativity scenes, hear recitations of poems by angels or hear children’s choirs singing. All the while, you’ll sip on glühwein (hot mulled wine) in collectible mugs, crunch on hot roasted chestnuts or candied almonds or pumpkins seeds. When hunger hits, you can stop at a food stalls for a wurst, a kartoffelpuffer (potato pancake) with applesauce, or a hearty soup.
The markets are filled beautiful handmade gifts from all over the world. You’ll be wise to leave room in your suitcase for handblown glass ornaments from Russia, Turkish tea sets, and of course German wooden toys and Christmas nutcrackers.
We’ve been to the Sternsnuppenmarkt (Shooting Star Market) in Wiesbaden, which holds a special place in my heart as it was where we lived for two years and was my first Christmas market in Germany. It is big and full of international wares, food, and music. We lived just two blocks away and went at least three nights a week from the end of November until it closed Christmas Eve just for the community experience.
If you’re ever in Germany, I recommend a trip during December when you can make once-in-a-lifetime memories of the holidays through the magic of their Christmas markets. You’ll experience the twinkling lights and love of the season with a friendly “Frohe Weinachten” as neighbors welcome strangers from around the world to join the festivities.
Here’s a list of those we’ve been to so far, listed with their proper names so you can find them should you want to visit them yourself some wonderful winter day:
Weihnachtsmärkte an der Frauenkirche
Romantischer Weihnachtsmarkt am Schloss
Regensberg Romantischer Weihnachtsmarkt auf Schloss Thurn und Taxis
Wintermarkt im Bauernmuseum in Perschen
Neumarkt a.d. Waldnaab
Markt der Partnerstädte
Historischer-Romantischer Weihnachtsmarkt Scloss Guteneck
Mainzer Weihnachtsmarkt auf den Domplätzen
Rüdesheimer Weihnachtsmarkt der Nationen
Schwedischer Weihnachtsmarkt in Frankfurt
Brussels - Plaisirs d'hiver / Winterpret / Winter Wonders