2017.02.14

Christmas Markets

The tranquil holiday season has ended, and in no time at all the first month of this year has come to an end. Everyone has returned to their regular work life, but I’d like to look back on the Christmas season. This year in Berlin, Christmas was a little different from the usual restful time.
Christmas Markets are extremely popular and found in every town in Germany.

Of course, there are various Christmas Markets in Berlin, too. The types of markets are diverse, from typical, classic types to creative art markets.

Several years ago, a slightly different Christmas market began being held at a large hall—the Japanese Christmas Market. It offers items including Japanese foods, crafts, and art pieces, as well as calligraphy, origami, marbling print workshops, and dance and music performances. For the Japanese community and Japanese artists in Berlin, this Christmas Market is a chance for people to get to know their own pieces of work and activities. Conversely, people interested in Japan can get a broad look at Japanese culture there.

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left:The takoyaki stand is popular with everyone, and I like it, too.
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right:A dance performance

Unlike ordinary Christmas Markets that continue from the first weekend of Advent until Christmas, special markets like the Japanese Christmas Market are short events only held for one weekend.

In traditional Christmas Markets, there are many stands that primarily sell Christmassy products, such as Christmas tree ornaments. Others offer typical Christmas foods and drinks. Of those, without a doubt the most famous is glühwein (mulled wine). This drink that can be made at home adds spices to warmed wine. When you smell the aroma of this spicy wine, you feel that the Christmas season has come. Much of the foods are sweet. The smell of roasted almonds especially fills the market and streets.

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This stand sells the traditional sweet called schneebal (snowballs).

What you will often see is people going to a nearby Christmas Market after work to drink glühwein. I also go with my coworkers after a day’s work. The market closest to my workplace is the one near the memorial church where the terrorist attack occurred last year. For 2 days afterward, all Christmas Markets throughout Berlin remained closed.

However, the markets reopened. This was important to the people who make a living off of the stands, and more than anything, it was a declaration of the determination not to let that kind of act hinder ordinary life.

I don’t sense anxiety either in the city or at Christmas Markets. People work each day and spend their days as usual. Many people apparently thought that at some point it might happen here. We know that terrorism is happening on a daily basis, so the difference in whether it happens somewhere not far away, in another country, or in one’s own city is unrelated to the importance of its occurrence.

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Vans from TV stations around the world are parked around the site.

More than terrorism, what should be feared are those in the right-wing populism who latch onto it as an opportunity to use the victims as tools for their own purposes.