Monday, December 12, 2011

The Magic of Europe's Christmas Markets

Gazing at my Christmas tree, the ornaments that strike me the most are the ones that came from my mother’s European vacations over the years. Glass pieces from Murano, Danish blue-and-white porcelain, and hand-painted wooden eggs from Russia are my favorites. They add so much character, and such a sentimental touch to my Christmas decorating. Christmas is a very extravagant affair on the other side of the pond, and not only do they really prepare all year long for the holiday, but right before, the whole continent erupts with a festive spirit. Traditions go back a very long way, and while Christmas has its roots in both the Biblical scriptures and the ancient winter solstice observances, the modern-day celebrations have roots that go back centuries.

The European Christmas markets are a festive tradition. Always held outdoors, you will find handmade toys, ornaments, and gifts. Browsing the booths, with a warm, mulled wine in hand as freshly made sausages, roasted chestnuts and gingerbread fill the air, you absolutely must try everything! The following are the best of the best Christmas markets that should not be missed, for they will certainly set your holiday spirit straight!

Brussels, Belgium
The Brussel’s Christmas market features vendors from all over the world, with fantastic local offerings. Belgian cuisine is fancied across the globe for its sophistication and palatability, so it goes as no surprise that you will find chocolates, beer, Belgian waffles, croustillons in ample proportions! Every evening light and music shows are put on, plus there is an ice-skating rink, and a Ferris wheel that add to the excitement!

Copenhagen, Denmark
Perhaps the finest of all the Christmas markets of Europe, Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens is a spectacle! This amusement park gets transformed into a shimmering wonderland four miles long. These lights are intricately arranged by Tiffany’s head designer, creating a brilliant, gorgeous display. If that were not enough, an additional 1,800 strands of lights are used to light up the willow trees along the lake. With a crafts market offering local artisan creations, some of the most beautiful handcrafts in all of Europe will be found here.  Piping hot mulled wine and iced doughnuts topped with black currant preserves are the local treats of choice here.

Nuremburg, Germany
One of Europe’s largest markets, drawing in 2 million visitors every year, it is the essence of German Christmas celebrations. It is highly regarded as “authentic” and much effort is placed on keeping it within tradition. German crafts, toys, and ornaments galore, this Christmas market goes on until December 24, and is the perfect place to find genuine German gifts and holiday décor!

Prague, Czech Republic
With two major markets in the city located next to each other, you must check out both! A beautiful, towering Christmas tree, a petting zoo, and the most gorgeous findings imaginable! Any gifts you bring back from these markets will have your loved ones swooning. The artisan jewelry, Bohemian crystal, and classic wooden toys are to die for! While you shop, enjoy the savory holiday treats such as honey ginger bread, and sip the customary hot mulled wine! If you stay through Christmas, on Christmas Eve the traditional dinner includes delicious carp and wine sausages.

This is the storybook Christmas, where the magical sights and aromas of the season overwhelm you with happiness; not stress! The Christmas Markets of Europe hark back to the old-world, which is kept beautifully alive in this tradition. These markets are a far cry from the mass consumerism, anxiety, and ordinariness of the mainstream mall shopping experience. Happy holidays!

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