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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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Dec. 23rd, 2013 04:40 pm (UTC)
From my impressions of such markets and gift shops in Seattle, America does not like "fine" things.
It's a farmer's culture and everything should be simple and bulky.
That's a difference from Europe.

Have you seen the "Eat, pray, love" movie?
I downloaded it yesterday and watched with my wife.

This is the episode I like :))

www. youtube. com/watch?v=8UQ0FyTkAl8

Italians know everything about pleasure.
And they just have no skills to make ugly things :)
Dec. 23rd, 2013 04:51 pm (UTC)
I've seen this film. What's wrong with a strong work ethic? I prefer it over the lazy ass workers I frequently encounter at Russian establishments. It's true, we love our pajamas! :)) I put them on as soon as I get home from work. Most Americans are simple people, we don't need fancy things and most find joy in very basic things. This week Alexander will publish a wonderful report about Santa visiting my neighborhood in Manassas. There you will see simple American folk, even some rednecks, all with smiles on their faces merely because of candy and a bearded man riding on top of a fire truck. We work hard, but also enjoy life. It's a stereotype that we're obsessed with our professions.
Dec. 23rd, 2013 05:28 pm (UTC)
Is it a stereotype that we're obsessed with our professions?
I noticed some differences between Europeans and Americans. Being abroad, i have met Europeans of all ages, but i have met Americans mostly either students or pensioners.
Dec. 23rd, 2013 05:46 pm (UTC)
Re: Is it a stereotype that we're obsessed with our professions?
What main differences do you notice between Europeans and Americans? Someday you must come visit us in America. :)
Dec. 24th, 2013 04:16 am (UTC)
Re: Is it a stereotype that we're obsessed with our professions?
Maybe i didn't put it clearly. Traveling the world, i have met few middle-aged US citizens, unlike the Europeans. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Europeans have more difficulties to buy a reefer at home than Americans:) Someday, i will visit the US, but the next country to visit is Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, i can't speak English fluently, because i have only 3 weeks of practice per year. I know the grammar not bad, but during live communication i feel tension and, if forgot a word, get confused. At this point, i'm not ready to visit US:)
Dec. 24th, 2013 04:23 am (UTC)
Re: Is it a stereotype that we're obsessed with our professions?
Here I sit in bed with my window open, smelling my neighbors reefer. Clearly smoking it on his balcony on this warm night. :) You are almost always writing perfect English comments in my blog. This is on your own, or through an online translator? If the latter, which translator do you use?
Dec. 24th, 2013 05:56 am (UTC)
Re: Is it a stereotype that we're obsessed with our professions?
I hope the neighbor's reefer's smoke is dense enough for you feel good too...)
I have got rather psychological and geographical than technical problems with English. For thousands of kilometers around me all speak in Russian:( And, unfortunately, the English language is very similar to the Chinese in the fact that spelling of a word doesn't carry enough information about pronunciation of this word. I read a lot of written in English literature, but it does nothing for my conversational English:( But, if a person owns a fine native language, his linguistic culture seeps through even the merciless filter of Google translator.
Dec. 23rd, 2013 07:40 pm (UTC)
Re: Is it a stereotype that we're obsessed with our professions?
Yes, Americans plan too much, for my taste.

Like: I will work-work-work, buy a house, then, after becoming a pensioner, move to Florida (or Arizona), and travel to Europe, look at those strange Europeans who can live without air conditioners and do not eat burgers :)))
That's basically it.
Dec. 23rd, 2013 07:43 pm (UTC)
On this point, I'll agree. We do plan things out, but not everyone. I never had a life "timeline" like some women (married at _ age, two kids at __ age, etc.) In this way I'm different. Of course I would be a complete nightmare without A/C. Already sweating in the apartment every night from my Russian guest who wishes to keep the apartment at sauna temperatures. :))


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