Ashlynn and Case made it to St. Wendel on a clear and chilly day. The story of the St Wendel Christmas market started in the mid-1500’s. It was established to give local merchants an opportunity to sell their wares to nearby villages and towns. Over the centuries it has grown into a much-loved tradition for people far and wide, and Case and Ashlynn were poised to make the most of their time in this cute little town.
One of three nativity scenes in the village. Nativity scenes trace their origin as far back as 1223 when St. Francis of Assisi created the first créche in an effort to bring the focus back to the birth of Christ and away from the material gifts that had overtaken the spirit of Christmas. Ashlynn and Case understood the simplicity and beauty that is intended as they had no real commercial options in the village where they lived, and their wonder was the land they lived in and the friends they had such as good old Pip! Case reminded his sister that one of the most famous nativity scenes in the world was in the basement of the Bethlehem Chapel in Prague’s Old Town, and that the line was so long they didn’t get to see it. Perhaps during another trip.
The lives of nutcrackers were spawned by the magical story of Clara and her gifted nutcracker that in her dreams becomes a handsome prince on Christmas Eve and who with the help of Clara engages in battle against the evil Mouse King. Many toy soldiers and other characters have sprung from this magical story. Little do the pewter snowbabies realize that they too are inspiring stories and messages about the delights of Christmas.
It was morning and chilly but Case and Ashlynn had no problem with the weather as they further explored this Christmas Market. They turned a corner and saw a little square dedicated to medieval times complete with the characters dressed in the attire of the time. And all that gluewein for sale – way too early. For most.
Back out in the main part of the market the crowds were starting to get bigger. Clusters of people hovered at the stalls, Christmas music was playing in the air, and smiles were abundant, none bigger than the grins on the faces of Ashlynn and Case. This market was small but so embodied the spirit of the holidays.
All the walking around, passing the great stalls, rubbing shoulders with strangers made the babies very hungry and as they passed a stand selling weisswurst and hot cider they couldn’t resist…
Sausages in hand Case and Ashlynn continued to explore the market. Turning a corner leading to another square they had a beautiful view of the church of St Wendel framed by the sky and an enormous tree.
And right next to the church was a crowd watching a performance of dancers with fire that sort of reminded them of the Dance of Fire ritual back home.
By now it was getting late and Case and Ashlynn could feel the darkness coming as the weather turned noticeably colder. Not deterred in the least were the crowds of people arriving for the night festivities, and as much as they wanted to stay they had more markets to visit and not a lot of time. Ashlynn leaned into Case as they made their way through the throngs and asked him if he had seen that lady that had been in Prague and Rudesheim. He replied that he had not, but Ashlynn assured him that indeed she had briefly noticed her in front of a stall that was selling handmade pottery.
Case and Ashlynn were so happy that they had come to this little market. The big markets such as Berlin, Munich, Dusseldorf and Nuremberg were famous, but Pip the polar bear had not steered them wrong when he told them of the magic of the smaller markets like this one in St Wendel. And as they headed out of town they passed one more display that so reminded them of home…
The holiday season is a time of joy, family and tradition. One of the most memorable and special experiences of Christmas is to attend a local holiday market, and there is perhaps none more convivial than the renowned Christmas market in Nancy, France. This market has been going on in this Alsace Lorraine town since the 16th century making it one of the oldest in Europe.
Our two adventurous snowbabies had lit a fire under their huskies and made record time from St. Wendel to Nancy. They parked their sled and dogs with a kind farmer on the outskirts of town and rode the train into town to the Place Stanislaus where the market was being held. Climbing up the steps from the station the first thing they saw was a huge jolly St Nicholas and a circle of stalls with Christmas carols blaring over well hidden speakers. The air was festive and all around were people with huge smiles on their faces.
Right in the middle of the square was a colorful merry-go-round that the snowbabies wished they could ride but were told they didn’t meet the height requirements . “No problem” replied Case with a smile, “you would probably exceed the weight limit for a ride on our sled.” And on they moved to a series of stalls that had a lot of crafty things that would please the old and the young.
And not far from where they were standing Ashlynn and Case heard the music of a band not hitting all the notes but sounding like they were having a lot of fun nevertheless.
Well, that created an appetite in the babies and they meandered around the square looking for some comfort food that would fill them up for the rest of the day.
Marrons chauds au feu de bois are roasted chestnuts which while hot, really didn’t appeal to the pair, and the next stall was selling huitres, escargots, champagne and foie gras which in plain old english were oysters, snails, champagne and raw goose liver – a little too refined for these young palates.
They finally settled on a stall that was warm and the owners seemed one happy family all dressed in the same shirts. Case and Ashlynn were feeling really hungry so from the lady on the left they ordered the open faced baguette with crême fraiche, onions, ham, thinly sliced potatoes and a raclette cheese, all baked in an open fire oven. The lady on the right had the best smelling roasted baby potatoes with parsley, melted raclette cheese, a hint of onions and a not so subtle dash of garlic. Oh la la! This was going to fill them up. They ate outside at a stand up table, drinking in all the good cheer in the square.
Walking around the market one last time, really to walk off those calories they had just eaten they noticed a covered market across the street from the Christmas market. They went in and were amazed at the produce that was there – the fresh vegetables, mushrooms, wine, herbs and spices. Ashlynn and Case had never seen quite a display and they took pictures to show all their friends back home because they doubted that anyone would understand how great this looked.
The day was nearing an end and they still had to get back to the farm and pick up the dogs and the sled. Maybe the kind farmer would let them sleep in the barn under some hay and that would let them get a fresh start early in the morning. On the way back to the train stop they passed a couple of live decorated trees with a present wrapped in gold with a red ribbon – it said Christmas in all its simplicity. Ashlynn and Case looked at each other and each had the same thought – they still had to find that perfect gift for each other…