The Magic of Europe’s Christmas Markets

I love every single part of Christmas in the United States. From decorations that show up in stores before Thanksgiving to watching movies like The Santa Claus, ELF, and the Holiday on repeat, I get this giddy joy inside that keeps up through the holiday season. At home, I had a “NOW Christmas” CD that I would play in my car for the six hour drive back to college after Thanksgiving break. I wrap presents like my life depends on it, own multiple tacky sweaters, and spend hours on Pinterest pinning recipes for sweet/chocolate/peppermint goodies.

With that being said, celebrating Christmas in Spain last year was a little rough on me. First off, almost everyone in my family was trying to guilt trip me for not coming home. They would say things like, “Don’t you even miss us?” Of course I did, but bear with me. Truthfully I didn’t long for my family like I thought I would because it didn’t feel like I was missing Christmas. Spain celebrates Christmas a lot differently than the United States. Santa Claus is increasing in popularity, but the red, green, and gold decor, along with my beloved Christmas carols are nonexistent.

Their more important holiday is celebrated January 6, The Epiphany. On this day, the three wise men climb into all the childrens’ windows to deliver their gifts. I won’t go into its religious significance, but its a big deal for Catholics. So Christmas came and went, then New Year’s Eve, and the Spaniards were still holding out for The Epiphany.

Luckily, I got to soak up some holiday vibes outside of Spain, through Christmas markets. In early December, we traveled to Northern Ireland. The Belfast Christmas Market, located in front of the beautiful City Hall, gave me my first taste of gluwein and comfort foods. I couldn’t get enough of the lights, warmth, and mouth-watering smells radiating from that place.

Another highlight of Belfast was a visit to St. George’s Market with new friends. During the holiday season, there are special stands for crafts and holiday flavored goodies like sausage muffins and crepes. It had been almost five months since I had indulged in flavored coffee, so that was a happy, happy time.

After Christmas day, we traveled to Belgium for the remainder of our school break. The market in Ghent, in particular, was incredible! You could spend the majority of the day there walking past stalls filled with handmade crafts, drinking mulled wine or hot cider, and eating warm potato/sauerkraut/mushroom concoctions. In the rainy cold that can be winter in Europe, Christmas Markets are a perfect way to warm up and try international foods.

This Christmas break, we’ve decided to travel to Paris, Amsterdam, and London! Besides fulfilling the dream that is spending Christmas in any of those places, I cannot wait to explore their Christmas markets. Paris should be gorgeous leading up to Christmas, there are few cities as picturesque as Amsterdam, and we want to be in London for some English-speaking comforts during the holidays. Plus, have you seen the NYE show in London? It’s going to be one to remember.

Just as soon as NYE is over, I’m leaving from London for a visit to Oklahoma. I am a lucky girl! I’ll have ten days to relax in my house, spend time with family, and catch up on some precious time with friends who are coming to visit. I’m counting down the days!

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