Tis the (Swiss) season

Christmas markets descend on the German-speaking world like sunlight cast over a dark, helpless countryside.  Pre-fabricated huts designed to appear like miniature log cabins populate town squares irresistible to many in Switzerland, Germany and Austria.  Heated wine served in decorative mugs flows by the barrel-full, and crafts, textiles and miscellaneous “stuff” can be purchased for only a slight mark-up…think of it as paying for the experience of an outdoor seasonal market.

We find ourselves now in a new season, in our new country, and a new apartment, breathing in yet another trove of experience in this whirlwind journey we call life.

I have not been taken in by the “magic” of a Christmas Market, yet.  Though I have been to nice markets–shared some of that heated wine with good company and enjoyed looking at sellers pushing their merchandise–I am often turned off by the reality: crowds of impatient (sometimes intoxicated) consumers operating under a spell that Christmas markets are still pure in some way.

Perhaps these markets are “Old” Europe’s response to modern-day commercialism around the holidays.  In the US retailers have Christmas displays up by Thanksgiving to get consumers’ wallets primed to open and spill that cash. (or credit)  Hounding the exploitation of Christmas has become almost cliche, taking the bite from any honest discussion on the matter.

To the German-speaking world’s credit there still is a large religious presence in these markets, though.  Nativity scenes are in ample supply, and in some regions they are named Christkindlsmärkte–or Christ-child markets.  To be fair, a booth selling nativity scenes can be right next to a booth selling dragon figurines, or amulets…you have to appeal to the masses.

Winter
Winter is here

Along with markets and snowfall Winter signals something else for us–the passage of time.  Our troupe has now been in Switzerland for more than 6 months, and in Europe for 1.5 years.  We own furniture, and must fight to feel fully informed on the ins-and-outs of life in the US.  And our son–our living, breathing example of time passed–is now speaking two languages, and exploring the world while retaining lessons learned.

So as the Christmas markets flood our streets, and snow peppers our rooftops, there is more to winter than those superficial adornments.  The seasons force us to take stock in what we are doing, and where we are doing it, because our transient life-style brings often new challenges and locations.

Despite our transience past, I think it is fair to say if our troupe is in the same place, experiencing the same markets next year, none of us would complain too much.

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