Monday, 10 December 2012

Christmas Markets

I was born in Australia and have spent all bar three Christmases in the searing heat of an Australian summer. But this year, I miss the cold of a London winter. For the last five years, Christmas here has peaked at more than 40°C and while we cope the best we can, avoiding the hot roast dinner and flaming pudding in favour of cold ham and icecream bombe, it is still a sweltering occasion with the family wilting as the day progresses.

My last two Christmases managed to circumvent this as I was living in London experiencing first hand the concept of a proper white Christmas.  Neither was a white Christmas, though it was close, but the short days and biting cold of London's winter were a contrasting and welcome change. Instead of the feel of sweat running down the small of your back, the air chilled your fingers to the point of numbness and the breeze sent icy fingers down the neck of your felt coat. You felt glad you'd remembered to wear your felt-lined boots or even your toes would be suffering from the chill rising through the frozen ground.

Hearing now of the current festive season in London, I'm drawn back to the Hyde Park Winter-Wonderland where bright lights and German signs advertising bratwursts and gluhwien draw you through the stalls selling christmas ornaments and lollies into the muddy heart of wonderland. I miss the thrill of wandering around London after work snug in a warm elegant coat and fur hat admiring the Christmas lights down Oxford Street and the windows of Fortnum and Mason. Then traipsing across the river at Charing Cross to visit the Southbank markets where stalls sell scarves and jewellery, and delicate glass ornaments to decorate the tree regally awaiting your return home. 

For each of the two years I spent in London, I bought a little ornament for my Christmas tree, a small decoration that symbolised that year's adventures. The first year it was tobogganing in Greenwich park with housemates as we celebrated the first snow and the close of schools. We borrowed the landlady's tea tray with strict instructions to prove its indestructibility. It returned, a slight dip in the middle as we'd pulled the handles up hanging on for life as we careered down the steep slopes of Greenwich park. The second year I'd finally discovered the deer who resided in the corner of Greenwich park and so the wooden ornament depicted them calmly grazing amongst a forest of evergreens. 

I miss the bright red berries of the holly as it heralded the arrival of the festive season, and the alternative Christmas tree it provided for me as its green and variegated leaves lit up a corner of my little room. 
And hearing of my sister's current adventures through the markets in Potsdam, sampling the German food on offer just makes me want to leave the chaos of organising Christmas here and return to the calmer (if colder) airs of London.

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