Spending Christmas at home is a luxury for those who have home at their finger tips. HereAtGK has compiled a list of places that would work as a home away from home during the holidays. Ranging from absolutely picturesque to the birthplace of Christmas, these locations should suffice for places for the Tri-border community to fulfill their Christmas holiday memories.
Popular attractions at the market include the Nativity Scene, Carved Nutcrackers, toasted almonds, Christmas cookies of forms of soft gingerbread, a sort of egg bread with candied fruit, Bratwurst, and for many visitors one of the highlights of the market if Gluhwein: mulled wine, or Eirpunsch a egg based warm alcoholic drink. Both help stave off the cold winter air which sometimes dips below freezing. Many other handmade items, toys, books, Christmas tree decorations and can be found at a Christkindlmarkt.
Prague, Czech Republic
The markets consist of brightly decorated, wooden huts selling a variety of traditional handcrafted Czech products, such as wooden toys, Bohemian Crystal, jewelry, embroidery, metal-ware, ceramic plates and mugs, scented candles, hats, gloves and scarves, beautifully dressed puppets and dolls, and of course Christmas tree ornaments. Indeed, visitors may find some very nice Christmas stocking fillers. The Prague Christmas markets are not just about shopping. Visitors can observe traditional foods being made, and sample all manner of local food and drink.
There are large hams roasting on spits, traditional Czech pastries to try, such as ‘Trdelník’ – a hot sugary coated pastry – and of course terribly unhealthy, but wonderfully tasty barbecued sausages. To accompany the food, you’ll find Pilsner Urquell and other Czech beers on offer. And warm drinks can be most welcome too. Outdoor Christmas shopping is so much nicer with a cup of hot wine (svařené víno or svařák) in your hand! At the Old Town Square Christmas markets there is an animal’s stable, where children can stroke sheep, goats and a donkey. And there is also a large Bethlehem scene depicting Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and the Three Kings in a wooden stable.
Most impressive of all is the Christmas tree, shipped from the Krkonose mountains in the North of the Czech Republic. The tree is erected in a central position in the Old Town Square and draped in a blaze of lights. It is then turned on around 5pm every night. Set against Prague’s dark gothic skyline, this is a spectacular sight.
Cologne celebrates the season with seven Christmas markets throughout its city center. The Christmas market directly in front of the Cologne Cathedral is the most impressive one and boasts the largest Christmas tree in the region. Free Christmas concerts playing nightly in front of the Cathedral; starting at 6 p.m., you can enjoy everything from jazz, gospel and rock, to traditional German Christmas carols.
Sinterklaas is a kindly bishop. He wears red robes and a tall, pointed mitre on his head. Sinterklaas travels by ship from Spain to Amsterdam’s harbor every winter. With him he brings his white horse and a huge sack full of gifts for the children. The mayor and all the people of Amsterdam flock to the harbor to greet Sinterklaas as he arrives. Bells ring out, the people cheer, and a brass band leads a parade through the streets. The parade stops at the royal palace, where the Queen welcomes Sinterklaas.
Families celebrate St. Nicholas Eve at home with lots of good food, hot chocolate, and a letterbanket. This is a “letter cake” made in the shape of the first letter of the family’s last name. In some families, each person gets a little letterbanket with their first initial.
In the eastern part of Holland, farm families announce the coming of Christmas from the first Sunday of Advent, which is the fourth Sunday before Christmas, until Christmas Eve by blowing a horn made from hollow elder-tree branches. The horns make an eerie noise as they are blown at every farm in the neighborhood.
Later in December, Dutch families decorate a Christmas tree and trim the house with candles, evergreens, and holly. Some children hang up a stocking from the fireplace mantel on Christmas Eve, but there are no more presents after St. Nicholas Day for most Dutch children.
Families go to church together on Christmas Eve and then again on Christmas morning. They gather together for a family dinner of roast hare, venison, goose, or turkey. Eggnog and a mulled drink are specially made for this celebration. After dinner, the family gathers before the fireplace to tell stories and sing carols.