I love the German tradition of Christmas markets. One of my favorite things about them is that it seems like every town has one of some sort and they are all at least slightly different. I went to Stuttgart's today under the pretense of trying to find my last few gifts. Yesterday I went with some people from my lab to the medieval Christmas market in Ludwigsburg, which is really close to Stuttgart, and that was my third Christmas market so I figured it was time to see my own. I entered it from the town hall side and was instantly filled with the Christmas spirit. Cheesy, but true. The square in front of town hall which is huge and usually almost completely empty, was absolutely packed with a tight grid of market stalls and visitors. The aromas of different foods and the sounds of all the joyful people were almost overwhelming. There were many groups of musicians, all of them were kids and most were playing badly, but in a charming way.
It didn't take me long to find what I hope are some perfect gifts so I had plenty of time to wander and just absorb everything. I fully support the idea of the Christmas market because it is the spirit of commercialism of the season that I can actually get behind. It isn't some emotionless department store, but people selling their handmade wares that have a personality you can't get from mass produced objects. It is many people wandering in a huge cheerful mass through all the stands that sprawl through city spaces that are usually empty and fairly lifeless.
I still like the gifts I bought, but I kept seeing things I wanted to get that just wouldn't be the same after the 7,000 some odd mile trip home. What I really wish I could package and send to everyone is the entire Weihnachtsmarkt experience. I would send the smell of all the different types of roasting nuts that mingle into one indistinguishable sweet smell. The sudden wonderful olfactory impact of so many distinctive sausages grilling all around. The incredible delicious warming sensation of the spiced wine based drink known as Glühwein. If I could give that entire experience to everyone, I would. Merry Christmas!