Parenting Abroad: The Magical Christmas Markets of Germany

An American family experiences their first German Christmas

Editor's note: This story is part of a series about one family's experience moving abroad to Germany. Stay tuned to read more of their experiences and adventures and read the first post here.

My spouse and I stand in awe. It is our first Christmas Market in Germany. My expectations are high, especially after reading a Washington Post piece in which my city's market (Stuttgart) is mentioned.

The town square is full of wooden stalls decorated with lights, and tinsel and trees. The air smells like warm gingerbread and roasted almonds mixed with a pinch of cinnamon. In the distance, church bells chime a traditional German carol. We contentedly sip mugs of Gluhwein (a warm, spiced wine) or Kinderpunch (the alcohol-free version) while watching a musical trio play "Silent Night" on a recorder, accordion, and guitar. Seems heavenly, doesn't it? And it is, except for two tiny things . . . our children.

Of course, we love them. And of course, we want them to experience all that Germany has to offer but with two young kids in tow, there is no sipping. There is frantic gulping as I push my way through the crowd (think 90s-style mosh pit) desperately trying to stop my 6-year-old son who has decided to see if the hundred-Euro nutcracker can smash his cinnamon almonds. I burn my tongue but manage to save the nutcracker.

We actually don't get to relax and listen to street performers, either. We do overhear a few songs on our way to find the nearest restroom, though. I hum the tune under my breath as I search for change to pay for the toilet. Magical, right? Then, instead of chatting with German shopkeepers about their handmade goods, I say, “look with your eyes and not your hands” a few hundred times. Sigh. We don't buy anything.

We do, however, try ice skating. How could we not? Nothing says Christmas magic like ice skating. We pay 50 Euros and skate for five minutes before Buddy is done. The joys of Christmas. At this point, the kids are fading fast and we are not even halfway through. So we energize them with a Nutella crepe. Delicious. But oh-so messy. Now we have two kids with Nutella mustaches and sticky fingers. “Look with your eyes and not your hands,” we say a few hundred more times.

Grasping my daughter’s hand tightly, I pause to admire an elaborate roof decoration. I try to point it out only to realize she can't see it. She's too short to see anything other than people. “Are you ready to go home,” I ask? She looks up gratefully and tiredly nods her head. I'm ready too.

On the train ride home, my daughter leans against my shoulder and with a big smiles says, “Germans sure know how to celebrate Christmas.” My son licks a stray piece of chocolate off of his finger and agrees. My husband and I exchange a smile.

It may not have been relaxing, but the Christmas Market was magical after all.

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