Christmas, like winter, is coming. Scratch that. Christmas is here and I, for one, am thrilled about it. People often complain about Christmas decorations coming out too early, but I think Christmas deserves a season, deserves a few weeks dedicated to its celebration. In any case, one needs about five weeks to sample all of the treats on offer in Germany, and I am not even just talking about the Christmas markets when I say that. Have you seen what the bakeries wheel out? Mountains of glazed, stuffed, crumbled, iced, piped, buttered things. I just spent a good while at Brot und Zeit trying to figure out how I would attack sampling everything on display – start with the Lebkuchen and end with a plum Berliner? Begin with a slab of thickly buttered Stollen, progress to the classic Mandelhörnchen (which are a year round thing, but so delicious I couldn’t leave them out)?
Tomorrow, the Christmas markets will open. Christmas markets up here are a bit of a different kettle of fish to Christmas markets down there, but we have them anyway and the Glühwein is there, and that’s all that matters. Bavarians have sort of nailed the Christmas market, truth be told, and during our stint in the state of Lederhosen, we were able to hit Nürnberg, Würzburg. Bamberg and Weiden’s offerings. Nürnberg, where it all started, loses a little of the magic to the enormous crowds, but sweet Lord, the treats.
Of course, my first introduction to the wonder of the Christmas market, was in Münster, way back when. It was two months after I arrived in Germany, and I was yet to understand the importance of a serious winter wardrobe and thus soon to be struck down by some sort of glandular illness. It was in Münster that I first clapped eyes on Schneebällchen, and in Münster I supped my first Glühwein. And here’s a fun fact – when I first enountered Glühwein, it was by the bottle in the supermarket. I purchased one and took it home, poured it cold into a wine glass and thought, ‘what a delicious punch.’ Much later, I learned one drinks it hot from a crockery mug. I think my sister, when she visited that year, did much the same thing. In any case, once we started drinking it hot, she stuck to the wine glass. Possibly because one can fit more in.
Last year, during Weihnachtsmarkt season, I was newly pregnant and nauseated by the mere notion of breathing. Indeed, truth be told, the cloying scents of all things Christmas markets, had me pursing my lips and exhaling feverishly out my nose, praying I could keep it together. There was a moment in Bamberg where the bird room in the museum very nearly saw the contents of my stomach – which would have been a box of dry crackers and large amounts of ginger tea. I actually, regretfully, still feel my stomach turn a little when I think of eating at the Christmas markets this year. But nothing I can’t overcome.
Pass the Stollen.