Exploring the Christmas Capital of the World : Strasbourg, France

Adorned with fresh snow and charming lights, Strasbourg, France is bustling with Christmas spirit. The ‘Christmas capital of the world’, Strasbourg hosts one of Europe’s longest running Christmas markets since its inaugural start in 1570. This extravagant market, spread through thirteen separate areas within the city center, boasts more than 300 shops for all your Christmas needs!  

Let’s take a walk down the cobbled streets of the Grand Île District and explore why as many as two million tourists visit this beautiful market each year.  

Standing in any of the thirteen marketplaces is a sight to behold. Surrounded by medieval architecture carefully decorated to best showcase elaborate Christmas ornamentations, you can’t help but feel your spirits brighten. All five senses are active as you shiver from the crisp air but are warmed by a cup of mulled cider you purchased at one of the chalets; you smell the comforting smells of cinnamon and spices as you admire the colourful light and decorations. You hear familiar Christmas carols being sung from nearby church buildings.  

The songs are inviting, and you find yourself walking into a nearby church. Though many of the attractions are held outdoors, all denominations open their church’s doors for further celebration. Concerts, singalongs, and presentations are common throughout the month-long Christmas market, serving both the community and those from out-of-town.  

Next, you head to Place Kleber, one of the more popular markets in the city, and notice an enormous, beautifully decorated Christmas tree. This tree stands 30 feet tall––the standard size––and was specifically chosen for the market from the forest of Alsace. You spot a vacant bench to enjoy a purchased bredle (Christmas biscuit) and take a rest as you admire your surroundings. You take the moment to thank God for instances like this, when joy and hope fill the air. Children toddle by, holding their parents’ hands so as not to get lost in the crowds. You see teenagers and seniors alike exploring the shops in search of the perfect purchase. Everyone seems more alive than at any other time of the year.   

After a time of reflection, you decide to explore Place Broglie, the home of another large market within Strasbourg: Christkindelsmarik, or the Christ Child Market. Located in front of Hotel de Ville (City Hall), this specific market is what started it all. The sun has long set, and you notice right away an amusing sight: a festive lightshow projected on the City Hall building. With your hands feeling the weight of several gift bags, you again pause to enjoy the moment amidst the growing crowds, then carry on exploring a few more stalls as you end your visit with a warm and delicious, freshly made pretzel.  

It’s been a full, yet slightly overwhelming day, and though your hotel is fully booked and bustling with people of its own, you look forward to finding the solitude of your own quiet room for the remainder of the night. You appreciate the feelings often evoked through the Christmas season and are reminded of the hope and joy brought on by receiving the ultimate gift, Jesus Christ.  

As you experience all the Christmas preparations, markets, and festivities in your own hometown, may you not get lost in the hustle and bustle. Rather, may you be reminded of the reason for celebrating! Whether you are blessed to take part in extravagant markets like the one in Strasbourg, or choose to keep things quiet wherever you are, may you have a very blessed Christmas holiday!