We think that Christmas is only the Christmas Eve. But no…. Christmas starts long before it, in the last week of November, in lots of European big and small towns and villages throughout Europe. The streets are opulently decorated, Christmas trees are lighted up in every capital city, lights sparkle everywhere and the air is filled up with Christmas spirit at Christmas Markets.
Historic Christmas Markets (especially those of Austria and Germany) are unique and become more popular and popular. It’s because they somehow sidestep and deviate from the traditional commercialism that is typical from Christmas. They couldn’t be compared at all to large shopping centres where one becomes a subject of Christmas discounts and bulk purchases. Just on the opposite, Christmas Markets keep the family, romantic and traditional spirit of warmth.
Weihnachtsmarkt is kids’ Christmas Wonderland where they enjoy the displays of hand-made toys, figurines, marionettes, wooden carvings and candles. Christmas spirit overwhelms them and naughty small boys and girls attend workshops for baking cookies and making trinkets like the dwarfs of Santa Claus.
But Christmas Markets are a preferable place for grown up kids as well. Parents, couples, teenagers gather there attracted by the thousands of the lights. They indulge in tasty grilled sausages and snacks together with a mug of mulled wine. As for roasted chestnuts, irresistible pastries and delicious cookies and gingerbread, they enchant both adults and children because all these delicacies put the last figure in the Christmas puzzle. And all this happens in the accompaniment of Christmas carols.
We also have such Weihnachtsmarkt in the centre of Sofia every year. But there is another special Christmas charity bazaar which I do love. It’s held every first Sunday of December and it is a true journey around the world. Most of the countries gather in one of largest Expo halls in the capital and each country has its own stand. Cheerful natives from the respective countries attract you with numerous handmade and craftwork of high quality (yes, and some commercialized items, too), beverages, food and cookies. When you start going around, you will feel the spirit of each country. Stopping at each stand is like travelling to this country. For instance, you can take a small piece of French pastry together with a strong Italian espresso. If you are still hungry and thirsty why not to buy a piece of Bulgarian or Greek banitsa or Turkish baklava? If you are already satisfied you can move to the essential part, i.e. to buy Christmas gifts. There is a great variety of presents like Mexican and Chilean small amulets, tiny wallets from Peru, Japanese ikebana flower decorations, boxes of Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka, Russian/Ukrainian matryoshka, wines and bottles of exotic drinks from anywhere in the world. I can assure the feeling is great in this multi-cultural ambience. So, if you happen to be in Sofia in that period of time, take the chance to have a round-the-world trip with open-minded people who will definitely energize you with Christmas spirit.