Thanks to Twitter, I stumbled across a blog hop hosted by Blog In France, a fellow expat blog. What better date than 12-12-12 to have a Christmas/expat-themed blog hop! Best of all, it’s a great way to read about other traditions in other countries and how they get incorporated into an expat’s new life. I figured I’d share a bit about one of the Christmas traditions here in Utrecht (the Netherlands) that helps get me into the holiday spirit.
The kerstmarkt (Christmas market) may be more well known in Germany, but they pop up in cities and countries in this general part of the world. Utrecht’s is hardly the largest or oldest, but it takes place on Twijnstraat, a lovely historic street in the old city center, which also happens to be the oldest shopping street in Utrecht. Hidden behind the rows of shops on the right is the Oudegracht, one of the multi-level canals unique to Utrecht. Part of our tradition is to get a cup of gluhwein (mulled wine) from the market and wander down to the wharf level to enjoy the scenery.
Twijnstraat and some of the side streets are filled with stalls selling food, drink, decorations, yarn, antiques, and more. Many of the kramen (stalls) feature organic products from the area. In fact, a monthly organic market combines with the kerstmarkt during the Christmas season.
Last year, the market extended down one of the side streets to Nicolaaskerkhof, the square next to Nicolaikerk (Nicholas Church). There were more stalls on hand, as well as a crepe stall and some special treats for the children, including a charming merry-go-round powered by bicycle (of course) and special sleigh rides with Santa and a couple of his reindeer!
Not surprisingly, there was also a nativity scene with lots of animals to accompany Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. The low-key donkey was a placid contrast to some of the llamas and goats that helped make up the menagerie.
This year, we’ll be visiting the kerstmarkt again, although it will also be held at Janskerkhof this year, in addition to the Twijnstraat location. Either way, we’ll be heading to Nicolaikerk on Saturday to listen to the Christmas and Advent Concert in the church, which I’m sure will help generate a bit more holiday spirit.
Please hop on over to the other blogs taking part in today’s blog hope. Many of them are giving away special prizes, as well as sharing their expat life.