I once visited a winter market in Vienna, Austria. Everywhere the smell of spice, cinnamon and Christmas! Twinkling lights, romantic strolls through the narrow aisles and warm mulled wine. There are many things Europe does better than America, and Christmas markets is one of them. We have no such traditions in America, although most large cities will have some type of "holiday" market. A few days ago, we took a stroll through the market in Washington, DC. Incredibly boring, yet it has been ranked as one of the top 10 holiday markets in the country by many publications. Let's look inside...
1. The Holiday Market sits near Chinatown in DC, in the middle of a congested area of the city. Very rare that such a market would be designated as a "Christmas" event. They're almost always referred to as "Holiday" markets, so as to not offend non-Christians. Yes, it's the politically correct naming but such actions anger many Christians. Christmas holidays in America are still primarily a secular event celebrated by everyone, including non-believers like myself.
2. The main good sold at the market is hats! I love them, but for others it's probably boring to see so many versions of the same product in one place.
3. Winter gloves, not currently needed as a sudden heat wave hit the area. The past two days +20 Celsius.
4. A lot of scarves and head wear for females. Everything handmade by the sellers, usually very vibrant and animated people.
5. What's the ethnicity of this guy? Not sure, maybe American Indian? Very kind and excited to have his photo taken. A huge stand full of children's clothes, funny hats and decorative sweaters. He operates a shop in my hometown of Manassas, Virginia. Maybe one day I'll visit him and learn his life story.
6. Very few of the vendors actually sell Christmas goods. However, this was my favorite stand which also is shown in the cover photo. The seller is Peruvian, crafting wooden ornaments and religious figurines. The most colorful stand in the market!
8. Some artists display original works. This guy is from Mongolia, with Asian infused paintings. Quite expensive.
9. Yes, in America we love food! Even making candles in the form of tasty treats. They smell of strawberries and blueberries. Many variations including ice-cream sundaes, large cinnamon rolls...I love sweets and candles, but this combination is aesthetically ugly. I'd never place such a candle in my apartment.
10. Most of the products in the market are for females. This vendor was selling "vegan" soap. How can soap be vegan? I didn't really understand the process, but the maker told me it takes over one month to make each slab of soap.
11. Soap maker. He creates the products with his wife and mom, typical family-owned American business.
12. I purchased this fragrant bar of soap - lavender chamomile for $10 USD. Looks almost like a slice of cake, but excellent for skin. Creates a very soft texture and chamomile has a calming effect, which I always need! After a bath with this soap, I smell like a beautiful flower!
13. These musty old books are treasures! I like finding them in old bookstores, the book binds old and weathered. Very unique collection here, also selling old postcards from various American cities. Some of them were from the 1950's, handwritten messages mailed to a lucky recipient. Now in the hands of a modern day collector. Very cool but I forgot to purchase one.
14. Strange animal for children. I think it's a llama or alpaca? And how to cuddle with this stuffed animal? :) Must be a stand alone decoration for a room.
15. More hats and scarves.
16. This woman was so cheerful and a real artist with her needle, crocheting hats and scarves. Too bad I blurred her face, she's lovely.
17. Nice hand-carved, wooden board game sets including backgammon, chess, checkers...
18. Thick, woolen children's sweaters. Too warm for Washington, DC area but they're cute with every animal imaginable sewn into the designs.
19. Unusual for America, but there's not much food at this Holiday Market. Only one ice-cream stand and the rest Mexican variety foods such as empanadas and these tasty fried doughnut treats. Cooked in oil at 450 degrees, they take only 15 seconds to go through the deep fryer. Delicious! You eat them hot and can sprinkle on different toppings like powdered sugar, chocolate, caramel or sprinkles.
20. Mexican doughnut makers. Cool, funny guys!
21. Old woman selling children's books and toys.
22. Limited beverage options. Here, a vendor selling ordinary coffee and tea.
23. You can walk through this entire market in less than one hour. Washington, DC doesn't decorate elaborately at Christmas. Why? It's a commuter city. People come here mostly to work and then return home to the suburbs of Virginia or Maryland, like me. The most festive decorations are in front of the White House where the National Christmas tree is placed. Maybe next year I'll go there to shoot and show you the beautiful display.
What do you think? Very boring compared to European markets. Nothing enticing, no fragrant smells, no ice rink to twirl around on or benches to cuddle with a loved one. Overall, America can take a lesson from Europe and design more creative and colorful markets.
My family's Christmas celebration began yesterday, where a big group of us gathered for an informal brunch and gift exchange at a cousin's house. Now we celebrate for the next week, at various locations.
Not sure if I'll have time to publish another report this week. For all of my immigrant readers in America, Merry Christmas if you celebrate!
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