Twinkling lights, steaming mugs of gluhwein and rows upon rows of little wood shingled sheds. It’s Christmas market season. Now the location of said Christmas market could be just about anywhere. After spending some time this season in a few countries, checking out my share of markets, I found they had a distinct look and vibe. Of course each has its own flair and unique touches that sets it apart from the others, but the magical Christmasy feel engulfs them all.
I’ve always liked Christmas, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I started to really love Christmas. The traditions, the decorations, and the lights. Oh, the lights. I’ve always been a fan of Christmas lights (white only for the tree please), and enjoy driving around neighborhoods to see houses decked out in their Christmas finest. But it was the European Christmas markets that captured my real interest. The only problem was I didn’t live in Europe, so what’s a girl to do?
Move to Europe. Clearly it was the only option. I mean I may have moved to Europe for more than the ease of experiencing the Christmas markets, but it was a big bonus. I wasted no time in clearly and firmly informing my family I would not be returning home for my first European Christmas, when clearly they could come to me and we could visit endless markets.
Barcelona kickstarted my Christmas excitement as city workers started putting up lights very early on. Each new string of lights hung was like a countdown to the Christmas season. And when the lights were turned on the weekend after Thanksgiving, they did not disappoint. Each time I left my apartment I looked forward to exploring a new area of the city to see the light display. The lights were like a promise that it was finally the start of Christmas market season.
At this point I had spent a few years stalking Christmas market photos on Instagram and dreamt of the day I would get to stroll up and down the aisles of one. Those Instagram dreams were going to turn into reality, finally.
Celebrating Christmas in Brussels with my family provided the perfect opportunity to fulfill my dream. Why Brussels? Everyone kept asking. Why not go somewhere warm? Brussels will be cold. All true, but people were overlooking one giant Christmas detail. The markets. Brussels has a few markets and day trips to other parts of Belgium and Germany would afford us more time at other markets. What more could a girl ask for?
Boy oh boy, did we spend time at the markets. Each day we wandered up and down the rows of tiny houses sampling foods, checking out goods and drinking mug after mug of gluhwein. An exciting market detail I learned before setting off on my market extravaganza was at each market there is usually a mug designed specifically for that particular market.
That’s all I needed to hear, I was a woman on a mission. I made it a point to try and collect one from each market. Did I amass a borderline hoarders amount of mugs? You bet ya I did. Did I regret this fact when I went to pack my more than slightly overstuffed suitcase to return home? Absolutely not.
After years of anticipation you might think I was disappointed by overhyping the experience of the markets. I am here to tell you I was not. I don’t know that I can pinpoint my favorite thing about the Christmas markets though. There is just something special about them. Everyone is cheerful, celebrating the season, indulging in food and drinks. There are endless stalls of handcrafted goods and goodies to contemplate buying. The lights line the stalls and twinkle as you stroll along. The whole experience for me just exudes the Christmas spirit, and being there with my family made it all the more special.
For sure this year I took on the quest to visit as many Christmas markets with some zeal. Next year I might back off just a bit, but you better believe as long as I live in Europe there will be Christmas markets in my future!