It’s Grinch Time, but I’m not going there – not after all the cheer I found in the German Christmas Market in Manchester, northern England.
This is my sixth or maybe eighth year to celebrate the open-air bazaar, and to suffer the cheesy singing moose that lords over its two-story pop-up beer hall. For two weeks hundreds of vendors in rustic Bavarian-style wooden stalls offer nearly everything imaginable, from local specialty foods and drinks to ornaments, flower bulbs, glass- and wood-ware, and hand-carved nutcrackers.
Christkindlesmarkets, first recorded in Vienna in 1298 (yeah, that’s over 600 years ago), and soon afterwards in Munich by 1310, are hot holiday destinations for locals and international tourists alike. The outdoor markets include a Nativity scene, holiday decorations, traditional Christmas treats, and live music, but I mostly frequent the hand-crafted cheeses, sausages, fudge and other sweets, hand-size meat-and-potato pies – all winter mainstays – and wade through the alluringly fragrant steam wafting from huge cauldrons of savory stews.
While wandering past endless novelty and hand-made trinket shops, I keep warm with glühwein, a hot mulled wine with a shot of brandy, or the egg-based alcoholic Eierpunsch…whatever it takes to stave off the nearly freezing cold temperatures (which nobody seems to mind, especially after a drink and song or two).
My main guilty mustard-slathered pleasure: spicy brätwurst pulled directly from large round grilling racks suspended above coal fires. It’s a rare treat for me, though I can also be caught bun-handed at Oktoberfests, whether in Munich celebrating my mother’s Bavarian heritage or exploring my father’s ancestral Swiss village outside Zurich… you could say that Bratwurst is in my blood, more ways than one!
Anyway, I really enjoy elbowing my way through the festive throng packed into architecturally-rich Albert Square – especially at a time when the nearly 300-foot bell tower of the neo-Gothic Victorian town hall is dominated by a glittering two-story Santa figure.
And luckily there’s time enough on the train ride home to sleep off the glühwein and brats before climbing the snowy cobblestoned hill back home!