1. Christmas Markets. I am going to go with the obvious by stating this one right off the bat. People travel from all over the world to come and immerse themselves in the Christmas Market ambiance. There is a major reason for that. They are totally atmospheric, magical, glowing and romantic. One can find all sorts of holiday themed goods here, especially items specific to that country and culture (within whichever country you are visiting). You will find traditional sweets and handmade authentic items. The smell of spiced wine and sweet dough swirls in the air. If you get lucky enough that it snows, you are gifted with a scene like something straight off the front of a Christmas card.
|I took this shot of the market in Frankfurt.|
|From the Christmas market in Rothenberg.|
|I snapped this one at the Christmas market in Heidelberg.|
|With Judith, one of my BFFs here, at the Christmas market in Heidelberg.|
|With Travis, another one of my BFFs here, at the Christmas market in Freiberg.|
2. Gluhwein. I am personally not a big wine fan but I know the vast majority of readers would cite this as one of the awesome aspects of Christmas in Germany, and it is ultra traditional so I had to include it. Gluhwein translates to "glow" wine. Its made with cinnamon, spices and citrus, a heartwarming and slightly sweet drink. People congregate around thematic gluhwein stalls to drink a glass and be merry with friends and family, their breaths small puffs visible in the air in front of them.
|A view into one of the Gluhwein stalls that I snagged while wandering the markets last night with my friend. Check out that huge copper vat!! So cool.|
3. In Germany, you will find some of the most magical Christmas atmospheres and Christmas markets in all of Europe. These include Nuremberg, Rothenberg and Cologne (the first two on the list I have visited and can vouch for the fact that both are like stepping into a fairy tale storybook).
4. Decorations! This goes somewhat hand in hand with #1, but the atmosphere and decor in Europe during the holidays is magical. And it doesn't come with the cheesiness that is often found with much of the American holiday decor (I am thinking life size blow up snowmen overtaking front lawns). The decor here is utterly charming, Christmas scene lovely.
5. Tiny, storybook scene villages. These are abundant in Europe, though especially in Germany. Rothenberg is easily one of the most stunning small villages in Germany (featured in many of the photos below). I have been here twice. Both times, I was awe-struck and totally elated as I wandered through the narrow, cobbled streets lined with pastel painted, picture perfect timber work houses. Gorgeous. Now, imagine this same village decked out in holiday splendor. Magic.
All of the follow photos are my own, taken during my visits to these small towns in Germany.
6. The most delectable German holiday foods:
Potato pancakes with applesauce.
Prinzregententorte (a DELICIOUS multilayered cake of vanilla cake sandwiched with chocolate buttercream, topped with ganache and marzipan-whoa).
Gingerbread (in German, its called Lebkuchen).
Zimt Sterne (cinnamon stars).
All of the most delicious traditional German Christmas treats (in my humble opinion) that one can find during this month.
7. The roughly 1.5-2 weeks of paid vacation that is standard around the holiday as time off over here. This is definitely a given for my job in particular, working in a school. But its also customary in many other jobs as well.
8. And finally, not so much in Germany (at least during the past 3 years that I have been here), but elsewhere through much of Europe, snow!! Nothing adds quite to Christmas sentiment, romance and Christmas market atmosphere like a glittering snowfall.
However, check this out! The irony. No sooner had I written this list (I was writing it yesterday afternoon and finished it today) than I awoke THIS morning, December 6, to this outside my window.
This the literally only the second snowfall I have seen during my time here. No joke. Read it and weep, New Englanders. Yes, two snowfalls within a total of three years. You know what they say, you can take the girl out of New England, but you cant take New England out of the girl ;-) so yes, when I awoke this morning, gasped with excitement upon looking out my window and went about getting ready for work with a giddy smile on my face, sporadically craning my neck to look outside at the lacy trees covered in white.
(All of the following photos are taken from the view out my bedroom window and during my usual three minute walk from my flat to the train station, all from this morning!!)
|Out my bedroom window at 7am this morning!!|
|Walking through my neighborhood... :-D|
|My street <3|