The humble German Weihnachtsmarkt is—along with cars, Laugengebäck, and passive aggressive notes—one of the most successful German exports. Somehow, somewhen, Germany acquired the worldwide monopoly on selling hot wine to cold people. As a native, your relationship to the Weihnachtsmarkt is—to borrow an over-used cliché—love/hate. In order to explain all the nuances of these conflicting emotions, we’re going to need a few more words here than for the simpler steps. So, snuggle up on the couch, heat yourself up some Glühwein, and I’ll explain the stages of Weihnachtsmarkt dis/enjoyment—not from my own perspective, but from that of an average, anonymous Mitbürger on their first yearly trip to one:
Before leaving the house. Mood: 9/10
(The evening is off to a great start. Your winter stuff comes down from its box above the wardrobe, you’ve some music on, and you’re excited.)
Woohoo! It’s best time of the year—Weihnachtsmärkte! I’ve really missed them this past year. Tonight’s going to be great! Karl and Linda are coming, and I’ve not seen them in ages. It has been a hard week at work, but it’s over now. Meeting friends on a star-filled night amongst the smell of roasted chestnuts and mulled wine. Himmel. I’m going to saufen like it’s 1999!
Trying to find parking. Mood: 3/10
(Who else is going to the Weihnachtsmarkt today? Oh, right, everyone!)
Scheiß-Weihnachtsmärkte! It’s the same every year. Every idiot in the city is out, and all trying to park in the centre. Whose idea was it to go here tonight, anyway? It certainly wasn’t mine! I bet it was Karl’s. There’s a reason I’ve not seen them since the summer. Karl’s a letch. Linda’s a bore. If I have to listen to another story about their dog or their hot tub, I’m going to flip aus.
Seeing the market. Mood: 10/10
(Your mood quickly recovers when you turn the corner and are confronted with an illuminated, pop-up winter wonderland.)
Wow! Unglaublich. Truly wunderschön. I think it might even be prettier than last year. Did they have those twinkling lights on the Dom last year? They are the Hammer! This was a great idea. Sure, the parking was a pain, but that’s done now. The first Glühwein is near. Lohnt sich, total.
Entering the market. Mood: 2/10
(The stage of entering the market often consists mostly of trying to enter the market.)
AAAARGGGGGGGGGGGHhhhhhhh! Why? Why? Why? Stinkvoll! Menschen, this is not the Christmas market you’ve been looking for. Geht nach Hause. Are they just here to annoy me? Rechts stehen, links gehen—is this a new concept? Why do I do this to myself? Every year, the same. Weihnachtsmärkte belong in that special category of things that are better in the imagination than in reality—like cats, marriage, and, err, communism? Who keeps walking into me? Oh, right, everyone. Every single person. What am I? A fire exit?
Trying to find your friends. Mood: 1/10
(Unable to see your friends, you try calling them. The first few times the network is overloaded. On the fourth try it connects and you are presented with a wall of static.)
“Karl. Karl. Can you hear me?”
“I can hear you.”
“Can you hear me, Karl? Where are you?”
“We’re … where are we, Lindyloo? Oh, we’re … ehrm … PROST.” (The sound drops out) “We’re … stall … with the Glühwein … on the left …”
“With the Glühwein??!! THEY’RE ALL GLÜHWEIN STALLS, KARL! Wo genau?”
“WE’RE BY THE GLÜHWEIN…the wooden hut…you’re breaking up. Bis bald.”
The wooden hut? That helps. Das ist doch so typisch Linda and Karl, wirklich. Idioten.
Trying to find a place to stand with your friends. Mood: 3/10
(Who’s that in the distance? Could it be? It could. Can you get over there? Maybe. Slowly.)
There they are. Idiots.
“Hi Linda, grüß dich.” Smile. Hug.
“Karl, good to see you.” Smile. Handshake. Should I hug? Probably hug. Hug. Still handshaking. Awkward. Hugshake. “We made it! Finally! Wow. So pretty, right? Is it prettier than last year? Yeah, I think so as well. Let’s get a drink in. Ich hab’ so einen durst.”
First drink. Mood: 4/10
(Of course, the stand with the drink that you actually want has a huge snake.)
Typisch. I’ll just go where there’s no queue. Hauptsache, I find alcohol. Any kind of alcohol, quickly. For my nerves. This drink can be a trade-off drink. What about that stall over there? It’s not busy. What do they have? Eierpunsch? Groan. Fine, whatever.
“Add a Schuss, bitte. Actually, add two. Call that a Schuss? If you’re going to Schuss, then Schuss already. You’re firing blanks here, my man.”
Back to the group. Prost. “Auf Weihnachten.” How’s it taste? Pah. Geht. It’d be better as a Schorle. “Karl, Linda. What’s new? How’s Snuggles?”
Second drink. Mood: 6/10
“A hot tub party, Karl? Next weekend? Let me check and get back to you.” After hell freezes over. Okay, time for the second drink.
(This time, with your Notdurst defeated and your patience returned, you can drink something you really want.)
I want Feuerzangenbowle. The punch with added pyrotechnics! Why don’t they sell it all year round? Prost. “Zum Wohl!”
My cheeks are warm now. That’s much better. Is it thinning out a bit? Feels like it. What’s that I feel? Could it be? Maybe? Just a little … Yes, it is—Stimmung.
First food. Mood: 7/10
“In the hot tub? How did he get in there? Snuggles, what a character.” Yawn.
(If you’re going to keep drinking, it’s time to eat. Four beers is not really an escalope. Neither is four Glühwein.)
Carbs. I want carbohydrates. Carbs are good, right? The Lennon to alcohol’s McCartney. Maybe I can start with a quick Wurst, get that done as a base. Then some Pommes? Immer gut. Then it’s time to try something a bit more adventurous and less Alltag. Kräppelchen? Jawohl! MMMMmm, Kräppelchen. They sure knew how to cook in the GDR. Couldn’t make cars for toffee, but I’m pretty sure they made good toffee.
Second food/third drink. Mood: 9/10
“Hark the herald angel—something.” Burp. “Glory to the newborn thing!” Prost. “Auf—err—baby Jesus! Thanks for all the Feiertage.”
(In your inebriated state, you are prone to make all kinds of rash purchasing decisions. So stay put. Do not wander!)
It’s calming down now. I’ll just have a little wander.
(Do not wander!)
I’ll just have a quick nose around. Chestnuts? They smell amazing.
(You’ve forgotten that they taste like nothing, haven’t you?)
I don’t know if it’s the alcohol talking, but that little wooden horse for €50 is starting to look quite tempting.
(It’s the alcohol!)
Sure, it’s no Schnäppchen, but quality German handiwork should be paid for, right? And wer hat, der hat. And right now, I
hat haben sind habe.
Prost. “Auf, mmm, er—uns!” Burp.
Fourth drink. Mood: 9.5/10
(Back amongst your friends, you’re a little unsteady on your feet now. The correct thing to do would be to skip this round and drink water.)
All’s fine with the world. Hiccup. These … people … wunderful people! Each and every one of them. I could kiss ’em all. I could.
(Time to make a move, it’s getting late, and you don’t want to lose tomorrow in bed.)
“Whose round is it? Get a Schuss, baby. I’ll be over here by the gift stalls. Have you seen the wooden horses? Beautiful handiwork, Linda. Only €50!”
(These stalls are only here to make money from drunk people. The horse doesn’t even do anything.)
Shut up, you. Ah, here comes me Bowle. Prost. “Auf, ehrm, Wohl? No, we did that one. Jesus? Nope, done him as well. Auf, auf, ehrm, Pferde. Pferde are good.”
Burp. Is it just me, or is the floor spinning?
(It’s you …)
Fifth drink. Mood: 11.5/10
(Please don’t drink this drink. Put it down.)
Shut up, conscience.
(I’m just here to help.)
No, you’re not. You’re just a Spaßbremse. If I want to drink, I’ll drink.
(Okay. But it’s a bad idea.)
You’re a bad idea. “No, not you, Karl. I’m talking to … Oh, never mind.”
Where did this drink come from? Prost. “Auf Karl!”
Döner Kebab. Mood: 8/10
(You’ve already eaten Wurst, Pommes, and Kräppelchen. You don’t need this particular late-night ritual.)
Whatever. “Scharfe Soße, bitte. I like it hot and spicy, me. And onions? Yeah, why not, looks like I’m home alone tonight. More is the pity.” Wink, wink.
(Flirting with the Döner guy, now? Classy, real classy.)
That was a great night. “We should do this again tomorrow night, aye, Lindyloo? But first, bed! Tschüüüssss. Oh, err, does anyone remember where I live?”
Home. Mood: 10/10
Home at last! Sofa. Bed. Do rooms normally spin? Woo. It’s like the Wilde Maus in here.
(Put one foot on the floor.)
Don’t tell me what to do.
I’ll put one foot on the floor. That’s better. Wow. That was a spectacular night. We don’t do everything right, us Germans, sure, there’s what’cha call it? Place for Verbessssserung, you know, Deutsche Bahn, etc., etc. But a good old German Weihnachtsmarkt??!! Unschlagbar! Ha, unschlagbar has the word bar in it! Just noticed that. Brilliant.
(Close your eyes. You’re not capable of saying anything of any use at the moment.)
What was I talking about? Hiccup. ZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
The next morning. Mood: 1/10
(If you need me, I’ll be here doing my I told you so dance.)
OOOOH. OUUUCCCH. My head.
(Can I interest you in a slice of humble pie?)
Where’s my wallet? How much did I spend?
(Think of an unrealistic number. Now, double it.)
On what?! Shitty chestnuts?!! They taste like tree concrete. What am I, a squirrel?
(I did warn you.)
What’s this? A little wooden horse? What am I going to do with that? It doesn’t even do anything. €50? Spinne ich?
(There was some spinning last night, after you got home.)
Oh, my phone’s vibrating. Who can it be this early?
“GUTEN MORGEN, HOPE YOU’RE TAMING YOUR MALE CAT. AS AGREED—HOT TUB PARTY AT OURS—8PM. WIR FREUEN UNS. K, L, AND SNUGGLES.”
Schieß mich tot. Linda and Karl are awful.
(At last, we agree on something!)
Never again … Weihnachtsmärkte are nice in theory, sure. But, nah …
(Yeah, right. Until next year …)
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