When I was walking through town the other day to go to my doctor's and poke my head in a few shops (just to look, I swear...), I passed by massive trucks unloading what looked to be construction materials. Then I saw them: the booths for the Christmas market. It was already that time again. But my recognition of the appallingly early start to Christmas was quickly surpassed by an unexpected sting in my eyes. This was it. This was our last Wiesbaden Christmas market before we move to Berlin. And it hit me like a ton of bricks.
The Wiesbaden Sternschnuppenmarkt, or twinkling star market, was one of our first introductions to life in Germany. We had just arrived in the country as a family a week before Christmas - long before all our furniture was to arrive - living in a cavernous, empty apartment, with no presents, no tree and no idea the impact the life decision we had just made would have. We spent the days leading up to Christmas at the Markt, comforting the loneliness with mugs of hot Glühwein and sausages awkwardly tucked into small round bread, as we took in what was now our life.
Four years later, the magic of these markets has not faded, but perhaps we have started to take them a bit for granted with our focus on getting to Berlin. I have been lost in recent weeks to visions of more abundant restaurants, plans for the kitchen we must buy and slowly acknowledging just how much stuff I am going to have to pack, I nearly forgot the long holiday season before us and our final days at our Weihnachtsmarkt with the dear friends we have made here.
This holiday market has been a savior to us in the dark, cold, lonely days of the German Christmas season, when sometimes all you wish for is that family recipe you've enjoyed every holiday since childhood or simply to kiss your mother goodnight on Christmas Eve. It is hard to compete with that nostalgia and tradition and with family, but the German markets are perhaps the best antidote to this sadness. The crazed, stressed feeling of the holidays in the States has been replaced with happy excitement, making us anxious to see that first strand of Christmas lights go up and have that first mug of Glühwein for the season warming our hands. It is not about everything we need to buy or any self-imposed to-do lists filled with things that aren't really important. It's about those days spent under the sprawling lights, getting warm and perhaps a little tipsy on hot alcohol and a sugar high from sticky sweet Schaumküsse and sugared nuts, huddling with friends in the freezing rain and snow and just feeling completely content.
We have toured around Germany and found more spectacular Märkte and even better Glühwein, but Wiesbaden's Christmas market will always be a symbol of our decision to become expats. I'm sure we will be back to visit friends over the holidays in years to come, but it will no longer be ours. We will just be visitors. But until then, we will take in this last market with fervor, alternately throwing our lives into boxes and stuffing our faces with the spoils of the season. Here's to you Wiesbaden - it's been amazing journey. I will raise my last mug of Glühwein this year in your honor.
The 2009 Wiesbaden Sternschnuppenmarkt