I have discovered something that could have saved the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come a lot of time. If you want to make someone feel festive, don’t bother trying to defy the laws of physics, just send them to Strasbourg for the day sometime in December. Strasbourg, I would imagine, is the optimum spot for this; but other Christmas markets in continental Europe do a pretty good job too. I have never felt the elusive ‘Christmas spirit’ more than when I was sipping glühwein in the middle of Baden-Baden’s Christmas market as a choir sang Christmas carols.
When I told someone that Strasbourg is the ‘capital of Christmas’, the response was, “yes I can imagine it is fairly Christmassy at this time of year”. It wasn’t a metaphor; Strasbourg actually describes itself as, ‘Strasbourg, Capitale de Noël’. I would say that’s quite a claim to make, but, other than the lack of snow (which I believe the city council here as no control over) Strasbourg has managed to fully immerse me in Christmas. The city has enough lights to destroy the entire O-Zone layer (although the popularity of cycling here negates the damage), the main Christmas tree (there are thousands dotted around) rivals the cathedral in height and I defy anyone to walk around the centre without stumbling upon a Christmas market.
I ought to explain that in the past I have verged on Scrooge/Grinch stereotypes. This is partly because I have a birthday dangerously close to Christmas and from a young age I have been all too aware that it is easily over-looked when a bigger party is around the corner. Although in recent years I’ve made attempts to be festive, this is the first year I’ve ever really been excited for Christmas.
Strasbourg’s Christmas credentials are undeniable, but I don’t think they are the only reason for my sudden festive joy. Being far from home and everyone you love makes you appreciate the times that have been set aside especially to be with them. I know Christmas has been over-commercialised and too much focus is placed on the gift-giving side of things; but it seems to me that the vast majority of people think about the people they are going to see on the 25th December, the present-swapping aspect being a minor headache of ‘what do I want/what do I get them?’. Although I love the fact I am living in the capital of Christmas, I can’t wait to be back in my little corner of the South-West with all my favourite people. In the end, Erasmus will open up the world for you, but it will also make you appreciate what you’ve had for years.