It goes without saying that we all need a little (or a lot) of Christmas cheer this year – some time to sit back and forget about all the negativity in the world and reflect on our faith, family, and friends.
With continued restrictions on travel and gatherings – and a feeling of burnout after all we’ve endured in 2020 – it’s more important than ever to bring the Christmas spirit front-and-center in our lives.
And the good news is, you don’t have to hop on a plane and travel overseas to experience the holiday magic because, this year, it’s come to a neighborhood near you – bigger and better than ever!
Our politicians and media outlets have spent the entire year telling us to stay home, avoid family and friends, and put our lives on hold.
In fact, they’ve even strongly encouraged us to cancel our holiday plans, warning of impending doom should we gather around the Thanksgiving table or the Christmas tree singing carols.
But they can’t cancel Christmas.
And even if we’re sticking closer to home this year and doing most of our shopping online, there’s still a way to get out and enjoy the beauty and spirit of the season – and you’re sure to find a unique gift for that special person in your life along the way.
Outdoor markets have existed for thousands of years, but they’re not just a place to purchase unique goods. They’re an experience in and of themselves – a way to meet new people or catch up with friends and neighbors.
Handcrafted items, local specialty foods, and a feeling of tradition and fellowship awakens the true meaning of Christmas.
And even if we’re not traveling far this year, there’s likely a traditional Christmas market near you that will make you feel like you’ve stepped into far-away place.
Some are small, community-based markets; others are enormous events usually found in big cities. But one thing is certain… you’ll find so much more than gifts at these markets.
Philadelphia’s Christmas Village
Traditional European Christmas markets have provided a way to purchase local goods and gather together for hundreds of years.
And the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, is the perfect mix of European tradition and big-city fanfare.
The market, located at Love Park and City Hall, brings the traditions and flavors of the Old-World German markets with more than 60 vendors (socially distanced!), a fenced-off food court full of German treats, and even a carousel for the kids.
While there are sure to be large crowds visiting the Christmas Village this year, the city is advertising it as the perfect way to pick up a few gifts created by local artists and craftsmen and still feel safe with plenty of health precautions in place.
Here you’ll find hand-carved wooden ornaments, handblown glass figurines, Nutcrackers of all shapes and sizes, and Philly-themed gifts and treats.
For busy city-dwellers or Christmas shopping procrastinators, the market is open through Christmas Eve. But even if you’ve got your shopping done, a last-minute visit is the perfect way to experience a new Christmas Eve tradition with your family.
Charlotte Christmas Village
Charlotte, North Carolina has got it all.
It’s a favorite spot for lovers of the outdoors with all its nearby mountains and lakes – and this year’s outdoor Christmas market is back with its traditional Bavarian flair.
The market is fairly new to the Christmas scene, celebrating its fifth year of operation in 2020, but looks to be one of the best experiences in the U.S.
Promising “tens of thousands of lights, trees, and displays,” the walk-through displays are the perfect social distancing experience and will spark the wonder of Christmas in both the young and old.
This is also a celebration of German heritage, so there are plenty of adult traditions to enjoy as well.
For example, marketgoers will wait patiently for their first taste of “gluhwein,” a popular mulled wine – in fact, you can even purchase a glühwein mug to use this year and years to come. And, of course, there are the famous German beers to be sampled!
And while Charlotte’s Christmas Village is certainly the highlight of Christmas, there are many other attractions within a short drive – including the spectacular Biltmore Estate which has become world famous for its Christmas displays and festivities.
Downtown Holiday Market, Washington, D.C.
If only for a short while, all political party lines will be forgotten in our nation’s capital at the Downtown Holiday Market – and this one promises an experience unlike any other market in the U.S.
Like many big cities, Washington, D.C. is a melting pot of cultures from all over the world. So it is in this spirit that the Downtown Holiday Market brings the traditions and flavors of multiple cultures for all to enjoy.
This year, the market’s organizers have not only put safety precautions in place, but are focusing on supporting the many local, minority-owned businesses that have been so impacted by the pandemic.
There’s the traditional hot chocolate, cider, and cookies – along with the flavors of Peru, Germany, Mexico, and the deep south of the U.S. (home to the best barbeque in the nation).
This market is the perfect way to introduce your family to some of the most famous landmarks in the nation, all serving as a backdrop to the vendors and city shops decked out for the Christmas season.
While many of the Christmas markets in the U.S. focus on European traditions, the Downtown Holiday Market offers a trip around the world – something we are all dreaming of this year.
While things may be a bit different this year (like some are foregoing the traditional meeting with Santa and will instead Zoom him at the North Pole), it’s the traditions of the Christmas markets that will bring you peace and hope during these trying times.
Whether in the big city or your local community, they are one of the best ways to enjoy this season of light and giving.
A visit to your local market, or one in a city you’ve long wanted to see, will become a favorite family tradition – and a way to put you in the Christmas spirit if only for a few hours.
So don’t miss the opportunity to get out of the house, take in some brisk fresh air, and revel in the wonder of the season.
Remember, Christmas can be found in both the big moments and small, but most of all, it’s the human connection between the past and present that warms all our hearts – something Christmas markets are always sure to offer.