Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Time in Strasbourg, France

Many Europeans and people all over the world flock to the city of Strasbourg, France to witness what Christmas is like for this Eastern French city of 440,000 people. From November 26 to December 31st, the whole city goes up in lights and Christmas decorations, and merchants around the city put up outdoor kiosks throughout the city. It is the largest and oldest in France, dating back to the middle ages. In the local Alsatian dialect, based off of the German language, it is called the "Klausenmärik" or the "Saint Nicholas Market".

The possession of Strasbourg has gone back and forth between the French and the German so the mixture of both cultures can be most evidently seen in this city. Both German and French architecture decorate the city, and both languages are often spoken throughout. The Christmas tree, which became popular during the middle ages, has its roots in Alsace. It consisted of a fir tree covered with apples that represented the tree of paradise. Eventually, the custom of the fir tree conquered other regions of the world, including the United States. Small fir trees can be seen illuminated throughout the city, hanging off the walls or on window balconies.

As I walked through the city of Strasbourg, I could smell the aromas of "pain d'épices," a spiced bread pastry most associated with Christmas in Eastern France, or "vin chaud," spiced Christmas wine. The combination of both was intoxicating. If you are still hungry, "choucroute," an Alsatian specialty that involves dressing Sauerkraut with sausages, is probably your best option.

After a long day of shopping for local gems, the best way to finish off the day is by heading over to the center of the city to see the largest Christmas tree in Europe, towering over the roofs of Place Kerber. Enjoy looking at the tree while eating some "marrons chauds" (roasted chestnuts) and listening to some local Alsatian music played live in the square.

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