Everyone knows it’s going to be Christmas soon, whether it’s the first snowfall or Macy’s over-the-top decorations in and outside their stores or the fact that everyone is scrambling to figure out what others want for this holiday. But one of the things I like best about Christmas is the Christmas markets I've been to in Chicago, Prague and Stockholm. Chicago:
At home in Chicago, we have an Americanized German Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza (Figure 1).
Believe it or not, goods are actually brought here from abroad to be sold at (overpriced) rates. There are all sorts of trinkets, from woodwork to glass ornaments to hand-stitched sweaters (Figures 2-8).
And there is an assortment of yummy food stands (Figures 9 - 13).
But let me highlight a couple of my favorite things at the Christkindlmarket. There is the 40 ft. tall Christmas tree (Figure 14) that seems to have a couple branches dying off, but the lights are still brighter than ever at night!
Then there is the band (Figure 15) dressed in their German knickerbockers playing a holiday tune or two.
And finally, you have to go for the spice wine. Last year, it wasn’t too great, but this year, it is a sweet and warm treat, perfect for the needle-like wind Chicago weather seems to conjure. Plus, you get these cute boot mugs (Figure 16)!
The Christmas markets here (the largest of which was in the Old Town Square) look much like the one in Chicago except they are just SO much better! There are numerous Christmas trees, and it seems like everyone in town just wanted a night out to catch up with old friends. Everyone but Andrew and me, that is.
We were solely there for the food! There were entire legs of ham roasting in open pits (Figure 17). Although it’s super expensive (even for Czech Crowns), this juicy, sweet and savory protein is definitely worth the price!
And there is my favorite treat in Prague’s Christmas markets: halusky (Figure 18). This dish is literally a combination of that roasted ham, sauerkraut and gnocchi. I know it sounds weird, but it is a hearty and tasty dish (that you can also make at home)!
Then, to end your dinner on a sweet note, you could get these cinnamon-covered dough rolls (Figure 19)!
The Skansen Christmas market is located on the island of Djurgården in Stockholm. It is perhaps the most traditional market I have ever come across.
First of all, it is located in an open-air zoo, where some animals roam wild (Figures 20-21). There are also reindeer and bison, although none of my photos of them turned out well through the thick fog that night.
All the wooden crafts are authentically hand-made and the foods home-cooked. In fact, my potato pancake (Figure 22) was cooked right there on the spot (Figure 23).
And you MUST try the soft and sweet Swedish breads (Figure 24).
You can also check out the life-sized Dalecarlian horse (Figure 25)!
Best of all, you can dance around the giant Christmas tree with all the Swedes dressed in their traditional clothing! They even have some awesome children songs that my friends and I danced to with kids who had some intricate face paintings (Figure 26)!
- When on vacation in December, see if there is a local Christmas market to check out!
- Try spice wine. It’s normally not very good, though… but maybe your taste buds will think differently.