Taking part in the annual Virtual Advent tour is an absolute joy; it gives people around the world to share their Christmas experiences and traditions. When I last took part, I shared one of my greatest Christmas memories: watching the classic Bing Crosby/Bob Hope Road movies. This year, I thought I’d take you to the Christmas heartland and the home of the Advent Calendar… Central Europe.
Central Europe – Germany in particular – is the home of Christmas. Most of our modern Christmas traditions were exported from the Germanic principalities in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Christmas trees? Wreaths? Advent Calendars? Thank the Germans for those! So, of course, it would make sense for Germany to have the “purest” interpretations of our modern Christmas traditions.
In much of Central Europe, Christmas means Christmas markets, hot mulled wine, meeting friends out in the cold and kitsch-to-some-I-just-call-it-lovely decorations. Throughout my childhood, my mother did her very best to recreate this environment wherever we were in the world. Her family is from Bavaria and it is the definition of Christmas she (and I) grew up with. But as wonderful as at-home decorations can be, nothing beats the “real thing”. So this year, we went to Bavaria and Austria for the Christmas season.
Let me just say this: Munich is the very definition of Christmas. The city is covered in Christmas markets – dozens, literally – that are open every single day of the week, starting in late November and ending at the end of the year. Their Christmas markets date back to the fifteenth century and are as popular now as they were then. They are magical places: happy environments were you’ll find people of every generation. They are where you go with your friends, with your parents, with your children… These markets truly embody the Christmas spirit.
While I love Christmas all over the world, I really do think there is something special in the air in Bavaria. As Germanic Christmas traditions have been exported to the rest of the world, visiting the country this time of the year feels rather like stepping into the Christmasland! They capture the Christmas spirit in such a genuine way. It doesn’t feel commercialized or over the top… it’s just people celebrating the turn of the season with the people they love.
I hope this post has introduced a few of you to the magic of Christmas Markets and of Bavarian Christmas. If you can’t jump on a plane, I’d recommend checking out the Virtual Christmas Market tour on the Bavarian tourism site. It’s quite a treat!