Since living here in the UK for the past ten years, I’ve learned some unusual things. Not the least of which is that if it’s Christmas, you must have a German Christmas Market.
I don’t understand any of this. And I really don’t get why Germany holds the monopoly on Christmas. But who am I to quibble?
In London, I was able, for the most part, to avoid this sort of thing. It’s the part about Christmas that I really don’t like: it’s all commercial, full of gross food, and most annoying of all, these things tend to be very crowded with people in desperate need of direction, on the day and in life generally.
I guess that because I didn’t grow up with this tradition, it just seems weird and difficult to understand. Like Eurovision, but at Christmas.
There’s a German market near me here in Bristol. The main shopping area, which is pedestrianised, has been taken over since before it was December. For nearly three blocks, there are these funny little brown beach hut things, with fake snow painted on them (because it’s 14C and raining, or monsooning depending on how far north you are). And inside these little huts are various shops: none of them are German. There’s a curry shop, very English, a waffle guy, a cheese guy, a Myan handicrafts guy whose stall is usually surrounded by white kids with dreadlocks, and a guy who makes tools out of chocolate. Yes, you can buy a chocolate wrench. Oh, there’s also a guy who is smoking salmon in his hut. It’s never very popular.
In the midst of all this is a main area that’s a bit more German. There are sausages and a weird disco DJ music situation where the music is like a school disco and a wedding all in one.
The entire thing, if you ask me, is utterly hideous. And has nothing to do with Christmas. I was lamenting this to The Mom when we spoke on Skype recently and she told me a similar sort of thing has sprung up at home now too.
I don’t understand it. Since when did the good people of Germany corner the market on Christmas? And also: since when did curry become German?
If I had to imagine a German Christmas market, I would imagine lots of lush Black Forest cakes, snow, beer, sausages, and Father Christmas. And I would imagine that one could get all manner of German delights: things that are only found in Germany. But we live in a globalised world, and like so many high streets here in the UK, and back home in Canada, everything has a strong whiff of mall about it: there’s always a Gap, and there’s always a McDonald’s. We’ve become accustomed to having all the things, all the time.
This was something I remarked upon to The Mom when I first moved here. I’d imagined the UK to have all kinds of different things, things that I wouldn’t be able to find, get, or see back home. Then I went to the high street and found a Subway, a Starbucks, a Gap, and a Burger King. The cinema was showing the same movies I could see back home. The only difference was the currency I used to pay for things.
But I think for me, the most vexing thing about this Christmas Market is not that it makes no sense, but rather that it turns the outdoor shopping area into one glitzy, noisy, crowded mall area. And that sort of thing just does my head in. Whatever it’s called, German Christmas Market or otherwise. So I think that when I want a dose of all things German, I’ll just go to Germany. In fact, it might be interesting to go over for a weekend break next Christmas. Because what if, in Germany, they have British Christmas markets?