I will admit, I’m not the biggest fan of Christmas. It’s one day that often comes with a lot of build-up, a lot of stress (did I buy the right present, did I spend too much money, who or what am I forgetting, etc.) and, honestly, I could really do without the music.
That’s right, I said it. I am not into Christmas music, especially when it starts playing in November – I mean seriously, let’s hold off on Rudolf until at least December 1st.
Anyways, moving on…
While I’m not totally in love with Christmas itself, I do thoroughly enjoy many of the aspects that make up the holidays: feeling all warm and cosy on a cold winters day, sipping on hot beverages, spending time with family and friends, twinkle lights, and the food!
So, it’s safe to say that Christmas markets and I are pretty much a match made in heaven. But, it hasn’t always been that way.
My first visit to a Christmas market was underwhelming, to say the least. I was in my early-mid twenties and living in Vancouver. I’d been recently laid off from my first real job and funds were scarce. But, I had lots of time on my hands so when I heard about the Christmas market, I was keen to check it out; plus, I had nothing else to do that day, so I figured, why not.
It was your typical winter day in Vancouver: overcast, grey and lightly raining. I pulled on my boots and coat and set off in search of merriment and wonder.
But, that’s not what I found.
Instead, I was greeted by a parking lot full of simple red, wooden huts. No lights, no trees, not even one picture of Santa or his elves; it was just a handful of stalls selling gifts that looked as though they didn’t belong in this century.
No merriness, no wonderment. It was a Christmas market that could have been better described as a Krampus market.
That first experience put me off. For years I associated Christmas markets with macramé placemats, bad food, and sadness, and I avoided them at all costs and couldn’t understand why anyone could love them so much.
And then I discovered the German Christmas market on Pinterest.
Browsing through the Christmas market posts and photos piqued my interest. These markets in Germany and throughout parts of Europe were nothing like what I had experienced, they were full of everything I wanted the holidays to be. I decided it was time to put my bitterness aside and last year, I gave Christmas markets another chance.
My first visit to a real Christmas market happened last year when we travelled to Hamburg in early December. We didn’t book the trip specifically for the Christmas market, but I was very happy when I learned that our visit would coincide with their opening and immediately added it to the itinerary.
I mean, when in Rome, right?!
As soon as I stepped into that first market, it was love! The food, the drinks, the lights and the merriness; It was everything I loved about the holidays all in one place; it was perfect!
Throughout that weekend in Hamburg, we always found ourselves coming back to the Christmas market; it was just so hard to stay away from the food, the warm bevvies and the roaring waterside fires.
There’s really nothing more magical that sipping a hot beverage in front of a warm fire, while the snow falls around you and brass bands serenade you with traditional Christmas music (yes, that music I can get behind, also it was in December so I couldn’t complain).
We had the chance to visit several other markets in our travels last years, experiencing Christmas markets in myriad climates: warm and sunny in Madrid; snowy and sub-zero in Tallinn, and each one was magical in its own way.
And now, as Christmas is fast approaching, I can feel the flame for Christmas markets growing once again.
Thankfully, we have some superb options in Yorkshire, including a fantastic market here in Leeds that I’m certain will satisfy my craving.
As the weather grows colder and the days shorter, I can’t wait to carve out an afternoon (or a weekend) soak it all in, to bask in the warm glow of fires and twinkle lights, and indulge in my favourite new holiday tradition: the Christmas market.
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