…to the Christmas market
When it comes to Christmas markets, there is not only the group of fans (“Finally, a Christmas market without Corona restrictions!”) and the group of the uninterested (“What am I supposed to do there? There are only crowds, unhealthy food and presents that nobody needs!”) but also people in the “Yes, but only if…” category. The “yes, but” can come from different directions: “Yes, but only if it’s free.” or “Yes, but only if it’s not too crowded.” (Which in turn amounts to “Yes, but only if it’s not free.”)
Despite the sceptical faction, Germany is apparently a country of Christmas markets – which these days, not wishing to exclude non-Christian sections of the population, are increasingly being renamed winter markets or “Winter Fairs”. There are so many – large, small, well-known and unknown. In the meantime, the word has spread to neighbouring countries, and there are also a large number of fans in the Netherlands. Bus trips to Cologne, Düsseldorf or Münster are on offer and demand is high.
There are several reasons to visit a Christmas market. Let’s start with the temptations in the culinary sector: fried sausages, fish sandwiches, waffles, mulled wine, cocoa with and without a “shot” as well as numerous variations of gingerbread, spiced biscuits and chocolate-coated fruit. In the midst of all this, visitors can test what their stomachs can still stand after an eventful year.
Many also appreciate Christmas markets as inspiration for all kinds of Christmas gifts. Here, the difference between art and kitsch is in the eye of the beholder. Are bouquets of spices useful (e.g. if you want to drive away bugs) or mere dust collectors? Like many things, this is a matter of taste, and you can only hope that the people you want to give a gift to share your opinion. Of course, that doesn’t always work out, but I myself take the radical approach “If you can’t live with getting a gift you don’t like every now and then, you don’t deserve any gifts at all”. After all, you can’t always hit the mark, can you?
In the Netherlands, the “Dickens Festivals” have become popular in the run-up to Christmas. Here I had considerable reservations at first and thought “How can you romanticise a time that was so cruel for poor people, like this?”. I also found it questionable watching people dressed in 1840s fashion selling mobile phone covers or baseball caps.
A pleasant exception, in my personal opinion, is the Dickens Festival in the Dutch city of Deventer. The Berg Quarter in the city centre with its beautiful old houses is a wonderful setting and the residents of the city participate enthusiastically during the festival and go to great lengths to create their costumes and scenery. In my opinion, the “authenticity” of the festival is also due to the fact that the class society is not simply fudged away and that besides the “well-heeled”, beggars, stallholders and street sweepers also have their place at the festival – and not to forget the perfect organisation. During the festival, you won’t see a Coke can or a contemporary beer anywhere in the city centre. Food and drink stalls have covered up any modern signage with fir branches or wood and only offer what was available in Dickens’ time. There are cakes, pies, hot chestnuts, meat roasted on an open fire, tea, punch and draught beer. All this adds to the fact that I really felt like a time traveller there.
My own Christmas market visits usually take me to the Lower Rhine region of Germany, in cosy little towns like Xanten or Bocholt. This year I plan to visit the artisan Christmas market in the park of Schloss Moyland. The castle houses the Joseph Beuys Museum (yes, that’s right, (also, but not only) the one with the Fat Corner!). I’m sure I’ll have an interesting day there – and suspect a late work by the master behind every stain at the bratwurst stall….
I wish you all a wonderful pre-Christmas period and a good conclusion to the “old” year.
Original text: BBR
English translation: BCO