Christmas in Three Different Cities

By Alice Reynolds, and

Arguably, I chose to spend my time in Mainz, Germany at the best time of the year. As soon as it hit November, the city prepares itself for a month of festivities where the town transforms into a Christmas fairyland. Mainz’s Christmas market is like no other in Germany. Beautiful lights, hung from a central pole in front of the Cathedral, illuminate the old town into the night. The market town next to the Rhine becomes lively and busy as people huddle through the lines of wooden huts that bury the streets. Gorgeous traditional German tree decorations, lanterns and crib scenes spill out of the vendors and lines form to try the festive food. Hot Reibekuchen (potato pancakes) served with apple sauce, ginger Lebkuchen, crepes, and raclette satisfy cold hungry mouths.

The best aroma comes from the Glühwein stand serving up hot German spiced mulled wine from regional vineyards. Those wanting an extra kick, can opt for the Feuerzange version which comes with a rum soaked sugar cone which, when set on fire, drips into the wine. In another square, stands a German Christmas pyramid – an eleven metre tall wooden carousel with local cultural and nativity figurines, lit up by long candles. The magic can also be felt up the Rhine in the quaint, old-worldly German wine town Rüdesheim. Stalls, lights and food stalls wind down its romantic streets and the all-year-round Christmas shop makes it the perfect place to start feeling very festive.

Edinburgh

Golden warmth flows through the stalls, through the people, through the air, rooting into the sky. We are at the Edinburgh Christmas Market. Packed in like sardines and wrapped up in layer after layer, people moving amongst each other, like particles stuffed together yet full of energy. Excitement runs through our veins, excitement to see what presents we might get for loved ones, what decorations we can buy to cozy up our homes. Breathing in the cold air, my senses are engulfed by the smell of mouth-watering food – grilled sausages on a ferocious fire, warm waffles caked in Nutella, roasted chestnuts smothered with melted butter.

Last year, I had the lucky chance to have my own experience of Edinburgh Christmas Market. My brother was working at a farm just outside of Edinburgh, a bus ride away from the centre, so my partner and I hopped on the train just a couple hours to Edinburgh Waverley Station. For the Disney channel lovers, setting foot off that train was definitely a step into the magical. Even the friendly, plant-loving farm we were staying at was called Phantassie Farm. Dotted in the centre of the farm were cute little wooden cabins we could stay in. Covered in warm woolly blankets and snuggled up next to the heater, cheap accommodation became a luxury (aside from the outhouse toilet). It was definitely a unique but amazing experience staying at the farm, star-gazing at night with the sky crystal clean of air and light pollution, waking up to freshly cooked breakfast (and when I say fresh, I mean fresh), even just stepping outside into the crisp countryside air in the morning was completely reviving during summative season. I would definitely go back again… and you should too! If anything is needed during summative season, it’s a well-deserved weekend away in Edinburgh.

Madrid

Typically synonymous with sun and sangria, Spain may not be an obvious destination to visit in December. However, if you’re looking to avoid the commercialised chaos and swarms of tourists found in many European cities during the festive period, a more authentic experience can be found in Madrid. The underappreciated beauty of this European city forms the backdrop to its festivities – the regal white facades of the city’s oldest buildings stand out from the seemingly permanent bright blue sky and adorn the sweeping boulevards that are dressed up in their best decorations. Beyond the picturesque surroundings, the city’s pulse can be felt in the intricate webs of cobblestoned side streets that house countless bars and restaurants, where, in true Spanish style, there’s no lack of people enjoying themselves and sharing tapas.

Traditional Christmas values underpin the city’s approach to the celebrations, for example, whilst you will still find a huge tree in the city centre, the main decorative spectacles are the giant nativity scenes or ‘beléns’ that are constructed throughout the city. Buying a Christmas lottery ticket is another tradition which still attracts queues of people trying their luck at winning one of the biggest jackpots of the year, known as ‘el gordo’ or ‘the fat one’. The historical food markets that serve the Madrileños all year round ramp up their offerings, inviting you in with their impressive displays and allowing gift hunters to take as much jamón ibérico back home as they can manage. Perhaps the best part is that the celebrations continue throughout the twelve days of Christmas; presents are usually opened on the 6th January, the Day of the Kings, which helps to keep the January blues at bay for a little longer.

Photography by: Alice Reynolds, and Guzmán Lozano via Wikimedia Commons

One thought on “Christmas in Three Different Cities

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