Saturday, December 09, 2006

Since 1570

Strasbourg's Christmas Market.
Every year thousands of tourists from all over the world flock like Alsacian storks to our little town to see the Christmas Capital of Europe. Lights are hung from every building and bricks are taken out of the side walk to be replaced by the trunk of a small pine tree on every corner. For a country that prides itself in it's separation of church and state, this is the pinnacle of traditional family christianity, whether you lean more towards Santa or the Baby. This is a place not unlike a carnival in the good ole US of A, but with some slight differences.

1) Hot spiced wine is a must and available from over half of the brightly lit booths that line the cities major centers.
2) The hot greasy food comes from all different countries: doughnuts and pretzels from Germany, churros from Spain, waffels from Belgium, pizza from Italy, and of course crepes from France.
3) There are few rides and there is no equivalent to Carnies, though some of the vendors are a little shifty.
4) Every year a different country is represented in Place Gutenberg with traditional crafts, foods, clothing and music. This year is Romania because they are joining the European Union on January 1st.
5) There are booths that sell gifts like a regular arts and craft fair with beeswax candles, nativity scenes and glass ornaments, but there are also hookas, saris and other "cultural" items for sale.

But of course there is always the giant pine tree, decorated with stars and lights, to amaze the crowds with it's spleandor and beauty. One of the most majestic trees in the forest, it was cut down so that it could give us a month of pleasure before being turned into compost. This year's tree is a little odd looking; usually the limbs are cut from the trunk for ease in transportation and left next to the naked stalk overnight to be reassembled in the morning. Apparently the street cleaners thought the extra pieces of pine were trash and cleaned them right up before anyone could see the mess. So the only logical solution was to go back into the forest and cut the branches off a different tree and attach them to the one already standing in Place Kleber. A good story if it's true and you don't think about the trees that were harmed during the process.