The first Friday after the first Sunday of Advent the Lord Mayor of Munich, Germany, opens the outdoor Christmas Market at 5 pm in the Marienplatz, which means town center. In the cold darkness the near 100 foot tree is lit with 2,500 candles. Hot spiced wine, Gluehwein, scents the air. The Glockenspeil chimes and the magic of Christmas takes off in 140 stalls of candles, ceramics, ornaments, toys, clothes, foods, and much more, a tradition since the 14th century.
We arrived the first week of December. Right after a hearty German breakfast buffet, we set off for the market dressed in warm clothes and comfortable shoes- there were no chairs or benches. Clutching our large mesh shopping bags we joined the throng of shoppers. After we had been walking for a while, like so many of the other shoppers, we each bought a paper cone full of carmelized nuts to nibble on while we shopped and bags full of nuts to take home. We felt like we belonged.
When we got cold, we stopped at a hot milk stall flavored with honey, almond or other spices. All day we walked. In one stall we saw dried fruit figures. These were little people made of dried prunes, raisins, apricots, apples, and any other fruit that would dry - a whole fruit salad rolled into one so cute we didn't want to eat it.
For Christmas postmarks, there's a stall for mail from Christkindl, Austria. The Crib Market is the largest display in Germany of everything needed for a Nativity scene. One woman said, "I've come every year for ten to buy a piece for my collection." We watched shoppers reverently handle the pieces that felt reverently carved. If seeing is believing, and believing is seeing, holding the Holy Family anchors the meaning of Christmas.
We sampled Christmas cookies and gingerbread. The hot milk had worn off and we were cold again. It was dark. All day we could smell the Gluehwein, which translates as 'glow wine'. It made us warm and silly. I could just see the dancing cinnamon stick wrapped with a skirt of clove-studded orange peel, chunk ginger at the feet and star anise on the crown. My sister said I'd had enough.
The market closes on Christmas Eve. Angel hair will drift through the city for days hinting at the magic put away until next year.
We will light the pine incense in my Santa smoker, sip hot chocolate and dream of a return trip.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!
copyright 2005 Red Convertible Travel Series