The Christmas Market (Weihnachtsmarkt) in Germany is something I have been looking forward to ever since I was accepted into the study abroad program. However, Germany has been hit heavily with the next wave of COVID-19, and things are getting quite grim over here. My original plan was to visit the Christmas Market in Stuttgart and Heidelberg after December 14, my last day of exam. But a friend heard some bad news, that all the Christmas Markets in Baden-Württemberg will shut down by Thursday. I can already sense the disappointed in everyone- the markets were set up as early as November! Anyone would be frustrated!
Today’s the last day to visit the Christmas Market, right? After having a review session in preparation for an exam with Alex, we decided to walk around for a while at the Christmas Market in Wasserturm. It wasn’t as colorful as the pictures I saw when I was learning about Christmas Markets in Germany, and there definitely wasn’t many visitors. Most of the people I met as I walked through stalls with Alex looked older, couples perhaps. The feeling of festivity was missing from the air, and the feeling of sadness from vendors who are unable to sell their products or are not making as much for two years in a row.
After buying some cinnamon and sugar churros with Alex, we ended up passing by an old looking couple. They smiled. It’s good to see that there is still some joy even amidst the pandemic, and I hope the situation gets better. I want to return back to Germany another year with my family and friends.
Alex leaves (good luck on the interview!) after we walked around the market once, and I decided to stay a little longer. She suggests that the market will look nice with the lights. Soon, it started to pour. I took shelter under a tent and I can hear some adults talking at a different table. The smell of their drinks are familiar…Glühwein (glue-vine)! That would be nice, my hands are cold! But the thing with Glühwein is that they have alcohol in it. What is the non-alcoholic version? That’s right, Kinderpunsch! Kinderpunsch, literally translated into children’s punch, is a non-alcoholic version of Glühwein, or hot/mulled wine.
The rain eventually subsides, and I went to find a Glühwein stand. The price that you see is how much the drink costs, but 1 Euro is added for the cup. Then you can decide if you want to keep the cup or not. If you return the cup, you will be given back your 1 Euro! After sharing some smiles at other visitors who are also drinking Glühwein, I returned my cup and kept walking around. I wonder though…what is that big cabin looking house over there? Through the windows, I could see bright displays of little houses and nutcrackers, and many other sparkling products!
“Keine Eingang…(No entrance)” I said to myself. “…so this is the exit. Then this must be the entrance.” I looked at the door with the sign that tells me I should close the door after I have entered. Hesitantly, I walked up the stairs and slowly opened the door, turned around and close the door quietly.
Wow…all the noises from outside…just stopped. I can only hear Christmas music throughout the shop. It’s so calming and warm in here. As I stepped forward, a lady, most likely the seller, steps out from the side. She greets me and hands me a small basket. I was processing what she meant, but a few seconds later, I realized that she wants me to use the basket for the things I want to buy!
“Oh! Haha, danke!” I said, and she smiles at me before going to help the other customers. The shop feelings like an elf’s workshop. It’s so much brighter in here than outside. I walked around, and there were so many things to look at! They had snow globes, nutcrackers, even a TV keychain that plays music! I was particularly interested in the ornaments. How…how long has it been since I ever decorated a tree…?
I walked down memory lane, I remember myself as a kid. Was I in kindergarten? We once had a Christmas tree decorated from top to bottom at my grandparents house, back when we used the fireplace. It feels cozy…! Then I remember my best friend when I moved schools. The year when I finally visited a friend’s house. They celebrated Christmas, my friend’s family was from Germany, I think? Or their grandma was? They were a friendly family, and they had this pickle tradition. Basically, this pickle item, not edible, is hidden in the Christmas tree. Then the kids would try to find it- first one to find it opens their present first!
I bought a few things, a mini snow globe, matching ornaments for my brother, and a little sparrow that I could not resist its beady eyes staring at me!
The decision was made. Christmas Markets will be closed, but they extended to today, and most likely until 9PM. I decided to come to Heidelberg with Carly to visit one last time. There was a lot of people! Maybe a bit too much without masks…
She couldn’t come into the Christmas Market, and it was cold. So I got both of us some Glühwein to enjoy. I hope one day we all can go to the Christmas Market again, when it’s not restricted to only vaccinated and tested people. Until next time…
Cheers and hopes to another good year!
A Message from the Office of Global Engagement:
The safety and security of Drexel students is a priority for the University. As part of the efforts to support Drexel students that are studying abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Global Engagement has conducted a rigorous review of programming and provided additional support to participating students with customized pre-departure orientations and regular check-ins during the required self-isolation period and the term.