Several years ago, during our first Christmas together, my girlfriend and I were invited to have dinner at her aunt and uncles’ house in the centre of Rome, at walking distance from Ponte Milvio. When we entered the apartment, I noticed that it was beautifully decorated for the holidays. At first, the decorations didn’t particularly catch my attention. However, during the night I began to notice that the decorations on the Christmas tree, the windows and the village’s figurines weren’t any old objects bought from a local store.It was obvious that they came from all over the world. There were paper stars, traditional toys, candles, village figurines, baubles, magnets, each one of them reminiscent of a different country. And yet, they seemed connected by a fil rouge and looked well together. Indeed, as I later discovered, they were not simply memorabilia from trips taken by my girlfriend’s aunt and uncles around the world. They also told the stories of cities visited by friends and their niece, homemade gifts like the ones made by my girlfriend when she was young, or snow globes from a family trip to a Northern Country.
Nowadays, you could find an equally varied and beautiful collection of Christmas decorations at the famous European Christmas markets. In the Nuremberg Christmas Market (which opens on 29th November) you can find German nutcrackers and a variety of 500 different little figurines called prune people. At the Genndarmenmarkt, in Berlin (opening 25th of November) and at the Strasbourg Christmas Market (opening 22nd November), you will be able to find hand-crafted blown glass and wood carvings. From 27th November, hand painted glass baubles, sheepskin jackets and paper pictures will cover stalls in the Munich Marienplatz, and the most refined and beautiful village’s figurines will fill the old streets of Naples Christmas Market.
But Christmas markets are not only full of beautiful objects. If you are more of a foodie, you will not be disappointed. In Trento you can find bread dumplings known as canederli : they can be sweet or salty, served with cheese or in meat soup. Bologna is known for torrone, a hard nougat confection that is very popular in Italy. In Naples, you can eat struffoli; deep fried balls of sweet dough and susamelli, traditional sweets in the shape of a S, which are usually dipped in red wine.
Christmas markets are also an opportunity to immerse yourself in the cultural traditions and history of another country. The most fascinating locations in this case are Vienna, where the markets are situated around ice rings between Neo-Gothic halls, and Salzburg, where the dazzling stalls stand just opposite the Hohensalzburg fortress and an impressive cathedral founded in 774 a.d. Furthermore, in the Netherlands’ markets, at the Het Amsterdamse Wibterparadijs, the visitors can try fun activities such as curling, snow mazes and snowball fighting.This is why Christmas markets are so popular: they are not only places where you can find beautiful presents for your family and friends, but they’re also places where you can enjoy the Christmas traditions of a different country, with exciting activities and interesting food. And one day, when you look at that decoration on your tree, you will remember those beautiful days spent in a European Christmas market.