Here in Franconia, the holiday season gets underway with the first weekend of advent. Advent is a real time marker for the holidays here as nearly everyone has an advent calendar and an advent wreath. The Christmas Markets open on the first weekend of advent, and everyone is ready to be festive especially if there is snow in the forecast.
Leading up to the first weekend of advent there is a lot of discussion about the weather. Since they’re outdoors, the weather is really important part of the ambiance for these christmas market activities. Ideally, it should be crisp and cold, not unbearably freezing but being able to see your breath adds a nice touch. Preferably there should be snow so that we all have a reason to stand around warming our hands on the mugs of our warm drinks. When possible, it should not be raining as that puts an obvious damper on standing around chatting and drinking. It’s prettiest in the evening after it’s dark but many christmas markets are open all day.
This year we have been lucky with weather. In perfectly picturesque fashion, it was snowing for the opening day. Admittedly, there have been a few rainy days since then. (I think the pretty snow was just a tease) but still it’s been cold and dry enough to feel the holiday spirit.
There is no specific entrance to a christmas market, but it’s obvious once you’ve entered that you are there. There is no fee, and there is no security. It’s just a community event, a festive time in the town, decorated and jolly. There is bratwurst of course, about a million different types, and various other food, some German and some not. I read in the paper that at one advent bazaar in nearby Obertrubach, the town invited the refugees living there to have a booth and make culinary specialties from their homelands. I wish I had known about it ahead of time. I would’ve have loved to try the traditional food. Anyway, one really feels special strolling around in the cold. It really does feel like the most wonderful time of the year.
The centerpiece of Forchheim’s Christmas market is the giant advent calendar on the windows of the city hall. Forchheim’s city hall was built around 1400 and still houses the Mayor and other offices. Each window is numbered by date and every evening around 6:30 pm an angel opens the appropriately numbered window, tells a story and gives a gift for that evening’s advent. This time matches up perfectly with what we call Happy Hour in the US.
The Christmas market in the late afternoon and early evening is a family paradise. The lights and the decorations make the town so romantic. Inside the city hall are vendors selling handmade baskets, ornaments and other items. There is a carousel and sugary sweets. As it gets closer to 6:30 a band gathers and plays Christmas carols. What is most special about the Christmas market for adults I think is the mix of the cozy holiday nostalgia with the Gluehwein. Gluehwein is hot mulled wine, usually red but it also comes in white. This year I also tried a plum wine with whipped cream. Very delicious. I drank it too fast to get a photo but here is one of a special gluehwein.
An evening of outdoor holiday drinking is difficult with a new baby–but not impossible. What I’ve learned so far about being a parent is that you can still do everything you like to do, you just have to be a lot more efficient about it. Lucky for us it gets dark here at 4:30 or 5pm. That means we can meander over to the christmas market for our gluehwein and still be home into time to get the little mouse into bed.
Prost and Frohe Weihnachten (Cheers and Merry Christmas)