All I want for Christmas

🎶 Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, frost nipping at your nose. Yuletide carols being sung by the choir, and folks dressed up like Eskimos 🎶

We have now spent two holiday seasons in Europe.

Yes, I do miss my family and friends (so much more) around the holidays. I think about Christmas Eve dinners surrounded by familiar and dear faces, and how we were not there as they exchanged gifts at midnight. Or that we missed doing the New Year count down with our close friends, and instead relying on Facebook and text messages to greet them a Happy New Year!

Yet, the past two holiday seasons were not without its charms. We missed our family and friends BUT we also had a really good time spending the holidays with the friends we’ve made here in Poland. To top it off, there is the added element of adventure when you spend your holidays in a different city or country. In 2016, we hosted Christmas dinner at our apartment in Krakow, then jetted off to Dublin, Ireland to ring in the New Year! For 2017, we spent Christmas in Edinburgh, Scotland and welcomed the New Year in Krakow.

Christmas markets are a big part of the holidays in many cities in Europe. So far we have seen three different Christmas markets – in Krakow (of course!), Vienna and in Edinburgh. All three were fantastic and really puts you in the holiday spirits.

Imagine a tiny village of small wooden stalls decorated with twinkling fairy lights selling all kinds of food, Christmas decorations, candles, scarves, hats, and assorted knick knacks. It is an outdoor street market so it’s cold (and sometimes snowing) as you walk around, but you hear Christmas carols, laughter, and the overall sounds of people having a good time. Depending on how large the market is, there maybe an ice skating rink, and carnival rides – from a ferris wheel to a merry-go-round. And you will often find many of the adults around the Glühwein stalls drinking mulled wine and beer to keep themselves warm and in good spirits (pardon the pun). Although I wouldn’t have too much unless you know where the bathrooms are! 😁

If you search online, you’ll find that Christmas markets originated in Germany back in the Middle Ages, and it’s traditionally held during Advent, the weeks leading up to Christmas Day. The Viennese Christkindlmarkt is said to date back to 1298 when the king at that time granted Vienna’s citizens permission to hold a December market or “Krippenmarkt”. Nowadays, there are multiple locations in the city of Vienna, with the best known to be in front of City Hall, in Rathausplatz. It’s estimated that Vienna’s Christkindlmarkt gets about 3 million visitors each year.

Although the Edinburgh Christmas market is not as old as Vienna’s, it is nonetheless just as picturesque and full of holiday festivities. There are two main locations in Edinburgh but our favorite was on Princes Street, in the middle of the city between the old town and the new, right by the Scott Monument and the Waverly Station. When we visited during Christmas weekend, it was packed with people shopping, caroling, enjoying the rides, and getting tipsy!

I will end it here with some photos of the Edinburgh Christmas Market. I hope that wherever you were, and whomever you were with, you had a fabulous holiday season. Happy Christmas and a Healthy New Year!

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