For my family, Christmas holds a special place to us for many reasons. It has always been a major tradition that we have passionately celebrated. My step dad was the one who would ensure our house was filled with Christmas music almost every day throughout December and together with my mom, they would decorate our house from head to toe in Christmas decorations. Together, they created amazing childhood memories for us which resulted in Christmas being our favorite time of year. Ironically, this also became a time of year where we eventually lost my step dad who suddenly passed away on Christmas Eve. Christmas had a different meaning to us following that year. Although there are times during the holidays where it’s still sometimes hard, there is something that will always be so endearing about Christmas where it will forever bring the comfort in remembering some of our fondest memories with him as we honor his life together as a family.
It’s always hard being away from family during the holidays, especially when you’re on the other side of the world! Wade’s hockey gives him limited time off throughout the season and this year, he only received one day off which resulted in us staying in Germany for the holidays. However, being in Germany definitely helped since it is celebrated so elaborately in Europe! It makes me not necessarily want to fly back home for Christmas but instead pack my entire family on a plane and bring them to us for the holidays! Christmas in Germany was definitely a unique experience, especially since there are many things that are extremely different from the way it is celebrated back home! As soon as the countdown from the advent calendar begins, every small to large town in Germany is instantly transformed into a magical celebration! The dark winter months become bright and sparkly, as the streets are brightly lit up with old fashioned Christmas bulbs hanging throughout the city. Walking through the streets, you gain a sense of feeling at home through the sounds of familiar live Christmas music being played and the mouth watery scents of roasted chestnuts, freshly baked goods and steaming mulled wine.
Our first time ever experiencing an authentic Christkindlmarkt was when Wade and I took a day trip to Innsbruck. Through the excitement of our new German friends telling us all about the Christmas Markets, we both were excited to finally experience it firsthand! It was also our first time visiting Innsbruck, which was such a treat during this time of year! The old cobblestone alleyways were filled with wooden vendors selling Christmas decorations, wooden toys, handcrafted ornaments and various seasonal items. There were also many glühwein stands and food vendors, selling baked goods and highlighting the hearty traditional food from its region. Innsbruck is located in a broad valley, sitting between extremely high mountains. With a recent snowfall, the views were absolutely breathtaking! We took in where we were as we enjoyed our glühwein along the river with the bright, colorful buildings and picturesque mountain backdrop standing before us.
Our local Christmas Market in Rosenheim was intimate and absolutely adorable! There was a mini vintage ferris-wheel and the square was filled with the same wooden vendors you would find at any of the Christmas Markets. Our favorite thing to buy was one of the many homemade soups at one of the food vendors selling chili, beef goulash and pumpkin soup – some of our favorites! We would often meet our friends in the main square or sometimes just go on our own. We had such a mild start to our winter so Wade and I would sometimes ride our bikes into town for a glühwein or two. The Christmas Markets were always filled with people as they gathered to enjoy their friends and family while listening to live brass bands and enjoyed glühwein or spiked apple ciders. You can be with a group of friends or even walk through the markets on your own and feel as if you are surrounded by good company. Every direction you look, there are friends and family that come together to experience this special time. Simply people watching brings you comfort as you enjoy seeing the endless amounts of love and happiness filling the streets.
The Salzburg Christmas Market was over the top elaborate, filled with what seemed to be endless wooden vendors, a brightly colorful lit skating rink and an outdoor winter lounge that we were able to able to enjoy on multiple occasions! With the horse-drawn carriage rides seen throughout the city and the Mozart inspired musicians playing live music, Christmas time in Salzburg turned the city into something even more magical from what the city normally is!
By far, our favorite Christkindlmarkt of all was the forest Christmas Market in Waldühne Halsbach! It was located in the middle of a forest, filled with a warm ambiance of Christmas lights and lanterns, bringing the dark forest to life. The wooden vendors were fully decorated with greenery, accenting their structures which added to the enchanting setting. This is where we found the most authentic gifts and handmade ornaments since most of the other markets we went to seemed to all sell very similar items. We also found this to be the most tempting place to try some of the food such as the freshly cooked waffles over a large open fire pit served with apple sauce!
Spending our first Christmas in Europe, we were able to learn a lot about the Christmas traditions here in Germany. We discovered that the Christkindlmarkt dates back to the 14th century! The purpose behind it was originally a place where everyone would buy everything they needed for Christmas such as decorations, toys, gifts and baked goods. One of the strangest things we discovered was that children who are bad were not told the typical tale of getting coal in their stockings but instead to watch out for Krampus! A scary, horned, devil looking creature who would punish misbehaved children by capturing them and taking them away in his sack. Talk about giving a child nightmares only to encourage them to behave! Christmas Eve is also the main day when Germans exchange presents with their families and celebrate Christmas. Since this was the only day off the team was getting for Christmas, we decided we too would celebrate on Christmas Eve with our family away from home!
Our close group of friends, who are all the imports from the team, planned a Christmas dinner at Tyler & Jackie’s. We did a large pot luck where we each brought dishes we would typically have for Christmas with our families back home. It’s always interesting doing this, especially during the holidays, because you get to try different dishes from different backgrounds that your family wouldn’t typically make. That night ended up being another day for us to be reminded of how precious life can be and realize how close of a family you become while being away from home. Our friend Katie, lost her Grandpa that night who passed away so suddenly! We spent the rest of our night doing what we could to take her mind off of everything and to still enjoy her Christmas. We ended up staying at Tyler & Jackie’s until 4 in the morning, laughing the night away. It will be a Christmas I will always remember spending it with our dear friends in Germany. Wade and I rode our bikes home in the middle of the night with the massive, bright cold moon guiding our way home. It was the perfect way to end out night.
It’s amazing how I can be anywhere in the world yet still feel so close to home through familiar smells and the sound of popular Christmas music being played throughout the world. Even though I am thousands of miles away from my family, I will always have them close to my heart during this time of year! Together, Wade and I have started to create our own Christmas traditions. Not only will we carry on each of our family’s traditions, but we will forever embrace the new traditions we experience, wherever this life may take us… but of course by excluding Krampus!