Christmas is a special time in Europe. If you have been in European cities during Christmas, you will know what I mean. Though the weather is often cold, wet and dark during those days, there is no dearth of activities to do and warm delicacies to eat. Yes, I am talking about the ice rinks, and the numerous Christmas markets that pop up all over the continent during winters.
Depending on where you are in Europe, A Christmas market can also be known as Christkindlmarkt, Marché de Noël, Christkindlesmarkt, Christkindlmarket, Christkindlimarkt, and Weihnachtsmarkt. Irrespective of which country you are in, some common themes during these markets are the Nativity scene, home made products (cookies and chocolates), Gluhwein (hot wine). In addition to all this, each country adds its own unique flavor to the markets with traditions going back many centuries.
Some of the more famous of the Christmas Markets are held in Brussels and Antwerp in Belgium, Valkenburg in Netherlands, Innsbruck and Vienna in Austria, Cologne, Berlin, Dresden and Frankfurt in Germany and in Strasbourg, Paris and Lille in France.
These markets still look and feel like they must have ages ago. Small stall like shops are put in various public squares in each city, and you can hear the cries of locals trying to see you homemade cookies, dry fruits, warm wine, and Christmas presents for your home. Crowds haggle over each other to enjoy the delicacies on offer and have a conversation with friends and family.
In the current age of productivity and commercialism, Christmas is the time when people get together with their loved ones and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Meeting a friend after a few years, or traveling across countries to meet your distant cousin, or taking your girlfriend to meet the family for the first time – Christmas can give you many moments to cherish for a lifetime.
Christmas is the time when people get together and bond as a community, and give our individual consumerist lives a break. It is about sharing our love with others in the forms of gifts and affection, and basking in the wishes of others. The romantic kind can go kiss under the mistletoe, or take a ride on a giant ferris wheel or a simple carousel which appear in many Christmas markets across Europe. Many cities also organise special light shows and festivals to mark the occasion.
Christmas is the time for the most basic of human emotions – LOVE, to come to the forefront. For me, seeing people come out in the cold weather to celebrate Christmas is not only a religious event, but it also feels (to me) a celebration of the societies we live in today – where democracy and free markets rule, and authoritarian regimes and fear are a thing of the past. It is a reminder of the our shared values of love and respect for all, and the freedoms we all enjoy living in democratic societies.