I have spent the last two days in a stupor of Christmassy-ness. I know that word doesn't exist, but it seems very fitting for the atmosphere here. I'm sure most people will agree that we start Christmas very early in England... it almost seems like the clock strikes 12 on Halloween and suddenly you see stocking fillers and tinsel adorning shop shelves across town. It's the same with the Christmas markets in England, we just can't help but start them that little bit earlier than December. What I find interesting, is that in Germany the markets tend to start just in December, but when they do start, they are the very embodiment of Christmas.
I'm sure all fellow students out there will agree that with everything going on before the end of term, its hard to get in the Christmas mood. For me it was the same this year, and every time someone would state that Christmas was “only 2 weeks away” I would look at them in disbelief. The minute I entered the markets in Mainz, this quickly changed. Right now I could easily believe that Christmas is right around the corner.
The nice thing about the markets here is that everybody seems so happy; be it a lunch-break, evening out, quick drink after work or family day out, the whole idea seems to be to have fun and bask in the atmosphere of Christmas. The lights in Frankfurt were impressive, the roof of every market was adorned with lit up characters and signs, and tasteful coloured fairy lights dangled between the huts, leading the shoppers onwards. Many of the glühwein stalls played Christmas music, and when this got a bit much, switched to the sort of cheesy music I remember being played at discos when I was in primary school. The majority of the stalls have a Christmas theme, and in both markets (Mainz and Frankfurt) there were little houses filled with a variety of decorations and nativity figures. It reminded me of the nativity figures that were sold along the small Christmas markets of Málaga, when I was there as an Erasmus student last year. Of course, you can also find the tackier items one expects to see at festive markets, but these were few and far between. The most popular stalls it seems (except the wurst and glühwein, of course) were those selling candles, hats and similar warm clothing and lots of seasonal figurines and decorations.
What I love about the markets here is that they are as Christmassy as it can get, but yet they've avoided the tacky, almost superficial feel that is so common today. And that is their charm, they are Christmas in a nutshell.